Malaury Martin is enjoying simple pleasures, like spraying passes around a football pitch once again.
He never expected to be with Dunfermline in Scotland’s second tier at the prime age of 30, but the Frenchman is relishing the opportunity after a year in the Hearts wilderness.
He knows he has no future at Tynecastle Park and is humbly striving to rebuild his career in Fife. Dunfermline have lost once with Martin on the pitch since he arrived on a season-long loan from Hearts in August. His experience and insight offers their younger players useful guidance and the midfielder is glad to feel wanted once again.
Monaco, Nimes and Middlesbrough are all notes on the CV of a player who captained France at every level from under-17s to under-21s. If 30 is supposedly a footballer’s peak, no-one would have envisaged the teenage Martin in black-and-white stripes at East End Park by this stage of his life. The man himself is a tad surprised but extremely grateful.
He did not kick a competitive ball between August 2017 and September 2018 after Craig Levein replaced Ian Cathro as Hearts manager. Cathro signed Martin from the Norwegian club Lillestrom in January 2017 on a three-and-a-half-year deal. He viewed the player as his midfield conductor, Levein saw it differently and Martin slipped out of favour last year. There was no fallout, just a midfielder with a contract until 2020 but no first-team future.
Dunfermline put together a rescue package which has rekindled the joy within this amiable Frenchman.
“It’s the feeling of bring involved, to be playing at the weekend, to train for something and to have a goal in your life,” he told the Evening News. “That’s what I love – the competition. Dunfermline has been a good opportunity for me to go back to playing and it has made me enjoy my job again.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect this. You have to take it how it is. When you haven’t played for a long time like I did, you accept the fact that you need to get back on the pitch. When you don’t play, it’s really tough.
“At one point, I was on the way to Italy on loan. Then some crazy stuff happened but, with Italy, you sometimes expect that. I didn’t expect to come to Dunfermline but when I got the move I was really happy. I didn’t have to move from Edinburgh with my family, plus this is a good challenge for me. It’s a good club which has helped me play again.
“Sometimes in football you have to take a step back to go forward afterwards. The most important thing you can do is win games. If I win games with Dunfermline then I will obviously be looking foward to the next step, but I will need to wait and see.”
Dropping from the Premiership to the Championship has not fazed Martin at all. He is embroiled in a play-off bid in one of Britain’s most competitive leagues. There is a derby to prepare for this weekend as Falkirk visit. It is exactly the kind of intensity he missed.
“Yes, it’s a derby. I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s quite a competitive league from what I have seen. I think Dunfermline have the potential to fight for promotion but it’s not easy. A lot of teams are fighting so we are trying to do our best. We will work hard to get the opportunity.
“It’s a good challenge for me. There are a lot of young players and I am one of the oldest, which is quite funny, but I enjoy it. My mood is much better because I am playing and we had a son not long ago, so it’s a different life now. More enjoyable than being out of the plan and watching others play.”
He and his wife named their newborn child William after Martin’s brother Guillaume – the French equivalent of the name. “Also, we have been in the UK for so long and we didn’t want to give him an Italian or French name,” he explained.
Dunfermline fans have responded warmly to Martin’s arrival. His cultured passing and free-kick expertise bring extra panache to Allan Johnston’s attack-minded side. Striker Aidan Keena is also a Hearts loanee – with two goals in his first three Dunfermline appearances – plus another forward with Tynecastle connections arrived in August in the shape of Robbie Muirhead from MK Dons.
Martin and Keena will return to their parent club when their season-long loans expire. However, the former is realistic enough to accept he will probably never again don a maroon shirt competitively.
Eighteen summer signings mean Levein’s midfield is already crowded. Chances of Martin forcing his way in are between slim and none so he must find a new club if he wants to continue playing regularly beyond the summer. Which he most definitely does.
“To be honest, I don’t think I will get any chance again at Hearts,” he explained. “I don’t really like it but Craig has been clear enough when talking about me. What Hearts are doing right now is brilliant. I think he has got the right team and the right players.
“It has been clear. When you don’t get any chance for a year, nothing is more clear than that. I want to play well at Dunfermline, hopefully get promotion, and if so then maybe we can see what happens with Dunfermline. I just want good performances every weekend and to help the team get results. That is on my mind.”
Dunfermline are seventh in the Championship but only four points worse off than Morton in fourth place. The play-offs are their initial target, with anything more considered a bonus.
Martin knows he can regenerate his own profile by helping his colleagues up the table and into contention near the league summit. He is determined not to look too far ahead, for experience has told him that football at any level is unpredictable.
“I am focused on the present and doing well for Dunfermline and we will see what the future brings for me. It is too early to say what will happen in a few months.
“I don’t think about the next three months or six months. In football, when you plan too much, nothing happens. It is better to look at the present.”