Scott Martin thanks Forfar veterans for Hibs first-team push

Scott Martin started for Hibs against Falkirk on the opening day of this season. Pic: Michael Gillen

Scott Martin started for Hibs against Falkirk on the opening day of this season. Pic: Michael Gillen

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There’s probably few who can say they’ve walked into Forfar Athletic’s dressing-room and found themselves starstruck.

But Hibs kid Scott Martin was exactly that as he came face-to-face with the Station Park outfit’s goalkeeper Rab Douglas.

Martin had a fruitful loan spell at Forfar, playing alongside a hero, Rab Douglas

Martin had a fruitful loan spell at Forfar, playing alongside a hero, Rab Douglas

Farmed out to the League One club, Martin played 26 games for Forfar last season, an experience which he hopes will lead to him establishing himself in Neil Lennon’s plans in the months to come, the 19-year-old having started his first match in almost three months and only his third of the season against Raith Rovers on Christmas Eve.

And, he insisted, he feels better prepared to do so having been team-mates with veteran professionals such as Douglas, Derek Young and Gavin Swankie.

Martin is also eternally grateful for another of Forfar’s players, Brian Hodge, and his willingness to drive him to and from training.

He said: “Brian lived three or four minutes away from me and, if it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t have got to training and wouldn’t have been able to play for Forfar.

“I didn’t drive at the time but Brian was happy to give me a lift. It took about two-and-a-half hours to get there and then sometimes I was in at East Mains first thing the next morning which meant getting up at 6am.

“Dick Campbell, the Forfar manager, was brilliant for me. He gave me my chance. It was great to play first-team football with those guys. I was a bit starstruck to meet Rab Douglas, to be honest.

“I was a Celtic fan as a boy. Rab had played in the UEFA Cup final and with Scotland and here I was playing with him.”

Martin admitted the change of scene was just what he needed, a new challenge after a promising start to the season – he played four games for Hibs and scored in the League Cup victory over Montrose – faded.

But, as much as he enjoyed it, he insisted he’s in no great hurry to be farmed out again, saying: “It was good to pick up the experience of playing week in, week out, invaluable experience. If I have to do it again I would, but hopefully I will be here racking up games for Hibs.”

This season began promisingly for Martin as he played in the first Championship game of the season, the 2-1 win away to tomorrow’s opponents Falkirk but he then had to wait another month for a second appearance, the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup tie against Highland League side Turriff United.

And, he revealed, he was beginning to despair of being handed another opportunity as the weeks passed by with him not managing to get any further than the bench, the fates conspiring against him the other week as, stripped and ready to replace Andrew Shinnie against Dumbarton, the final whistle went without him stepping over that white line.

He said: “It sounds a bit funny now, but it wasn’t at the time. We were 2-0 up, the game was done and Craney (Callum Crane) and I had done our warm-up.

“We were standing at the side of the pitch ready to come on but the ball just wouldn’t go out of play to allow the substitutions to be made.

“You start to wonder if that chance is ever going to come. But what can you do?

“It was even worse for Callum because it would have been his debut.”

Martin’s patience finally paid off at the weekend as Lennon handed him a place in his starting line-up to face Raith.

He said: “It was a surprise, but a nice one. I’d come in early on the Saturday morning and the gaffer pulled me aside and asked if I felt ready to start.

“I was happy to get the chance and I felt I played well enough although, obviously, having to settle for a draw and being knocked off the top of the table was a big disappointment.

“But to hear the gaffer saying good things about me after the game was good to hear.”

During the game, Martin was seen exchanging more than a few verbals with Rovers former Hearts midfielder Rudi Skacel but, he insisted, there was 
nothing to it.

He said: “Skacel was trying to say a few things to me, but that goes on during the game and it’s left out there on the pitch. It didn’t bother me but hopefully I let him know who he was playing against, I gave him a wee kick or two.”

Martin admitted he probably won’t know until tomorrow morning if he’ll be starting again on a ground where he made his Hibs debut, a bittersweet moment for him a little more than two years ago as he stepped from the bench to replace Sam Stanton only for Falkirk skipper David McCracken to drill home the game’s only goal seconds later.

He said: “It was heart-breaking that day but tomorrow is a very important game for us with Dundee United coming to Easter Road next Friday night.

“They promise to be two cracking games and we know that if we get six points we’ll definitely be back at the top of the table with United back in second place again.”

If the injuries to John McGinn and Fraser Fyvie have opened a window of opportunity for Martin despite the arrival of veteran Celtic midfielder Kris Commons on an emergency loan, the youngster knows the fight to keep his place is going to be as tough as you could imagine.

He said: “Kris has come in and added more experience, a bit more quality. It isn’t as if we don’t have a good midfield just now but when John and Fraser come back – and Danny Handling is also back in training now – competition for places is going to be fierce.

“But I feel more involved with things than I did last season. Then I felt more like a development player but Forfar gave me experience under my belt, the game time I needed and the chance to establish myself as a player.

“Playing against Falkirk in the first game of the season was a bit of a shock and Turriff was a bit of a change with me playing right back.

“It’s hard sitting on the bench or sitting in the stand wondering if you are going to get a chance. It shows the strength in depth we have here and once everyone is back fully fit and fighting for places there’s going to be a few guys not involved every week.

“The team’s goal for the season is obvious. We want to win promotion and to do it by winning the league and I would love to have the chance to play my part in that. I want to make my mark here. I just want to play for Hibs and rack up as many games as I can.”