Craig Levein today moved to clarify the reason for the ongoing omission of Malaury Martin by explaining that the French midfielder is simply not his type of player.
The 29-year-old joined Hearts a year past January when Ian Cathro was head coach and remains contracted to the Tynecastle club until summer 2020 after being handed a three-and-a-half-year deal upon arriving from Norwegian club Lillestrøm.
By his own admission, Martin struggled to make an impact in his early months in Edinburgh as his new team endured an alarming dip of form in the second half of last season. The player spoke in the summer of his desire to start afresh this term, but Martin hasn’t made a single competitive start and hasn’t appeared in the team since being given a one-minute cameo by caretaker Jon Daly in the 1-0 win at Kilmarnock in August.
Part of his absence in the intervening seven months can be attributed to an injury that sidelined him from October to December, but Martin has been fit for the past three months and has made the match-day squad only once in that time – for the goalless draw at Aberdeen at the end of December.
Some supporters have questioned why Martin – who scored a penalty for the development team in midweek – has been unable to get a chance at a time when Hearts have been hit hard by injuries in midfield, but Levein, who was director of football when the former Monaco and Middlesbrough player signed 14 months ago, explained that he has simply been a victim of the summer managerial change undertaken at Tynecastle when he stepped in to replace Cathro at the helm in late August.
“We’ve got other midfield players that I feel can do a better job than him at this moment in time,” Levein explained to the Evening News when asked about Martin’s situation. “The type of player he is, I want to play a different way. It was Ian’s decision to sign him, to help him play the way he wanted to play, which I supported and which made sense. But I want to play with more dynamic players in midfield. Basically, he’s the type of player Ian wanted his team to play with but he’s not the type of player I want my team to play with. He just doesn’t fit in with what I want to do.”
Levein insists relations between he and Martin remain cordial, although the Frenchman appears destined to leave Hearts long before the expiry of his contract.
“He’s nearly left a couple of times already,” said Levein. “He nearly left at the end of August and he nearly left in January but it just didn’t work for him. He’s got a contract here. It’s not his fault. He came here under the premise that he would play under Ian and then the manager changed. It’s a normal situation. Everything’s amicable. He’s a nice lad, I don’t have any problems with him at all. He played in the 20s on Tuesday and he’s training away with no problems.”
Martin’s situation – signed on a long-term deal then barely used – is viewed by critics as a microcosm of why Hearts have lost their way in the last couple of years, with many placing the blame for the high level of recent player turnover at Levein’s door. The manager, who has had just one full transfer window since becoming manager, said: “People think I signed every player of the last three years, but that’s not how it works. The director of football’s role is not to tell the manager who to sign – it’s to ask the manager why he’s signing certain players. And if it makes sense, you support them. No matter what I say, people will judge me how they want to judge me. I’m not asking to be judged or not judged – that’s not my thing. There are a lot of people who do know how things work, and there are others who just want to keep regurgitating the same old rubbish.”