Forgotten man Malaury Martin has been told he will be given a chance to return to the fold once resurgent Hearts have re-established themselves as a team able to play confidently on the front foot.
The French midfielder has struggled to make an impact at Tynecastle since arriving on a three-and-half-year contract in January and has found himself out of the picture so far this season.
After making three substitute appearances in the ill-fated Betfred Cup campaign in July, his only Premiership action so far this term came in the form of a last-minute cameo outing off the bench in the win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. Martin hasn’t featured in the 18-man match-day squad for any of Hearts’ last four games, and interim head coach Jon Daly had hinted last month that the former Monaco, Middlesbrough and Lillestrom player would have been allowed to leave in the last transfer window if he wished.
However, Craig Levein explained that the midfielder will get another chance to prove himself once Hearts, who have been grinding out some morale-boosting results in his absence, are back on an even keel following a disastrous first half to 2017.
The manager is hopeful that Martin, renowned predominantly for guile rather than grit, will flourish within a more harmonious environment going forward than that in which he has operated for the bulk of his Hearts career to date.
“Malaury’s still got a chance, no doubt about that,” Levein told the Evening News. “He’s a different type of player. At this moment in time, while we’re scrapping and fighting for points, there are other types of player who are more important to us. But once we get on track and start to have more of the ball, then I think he’ll come into his own. I’ve had a couple of chats with him and he’s in a decent place.
“He’s working hard in training and he’ll get an opportunity, for sure.”
Martin was one of several January signings who struggled to impose themselves amid the negativity that engulfed Hearts under Ian Cathro in the second half of last season. The 29-year-old has scored twice in 21 appearances for the Tynecastle side. Of his nine starts, only two have come since he was substituted at half-time in the Scottish Cup defeat by Hibs at Easter Road seven months ago, although both of those came in defeats away to Rangers and St Johnstone in May.
Martin admitted in an interview with the Evening News in July that his first six months at Hearts hadn’t gone to plan and that a lack of match fitness and sharpness when he first arrived had hindered him last term. He was adamant he would be better prepared for the rigours of Scottish football after undertaking a full pre-season, although he is still awaiting a proper chance to make his mark this term.
Martin currently faces competition from Don Cowie, Prince Buaben, Ross Callachan, Jamie Walker, Harry Cochrane and Connor Randall for a central-midfield role, although the fact Arnaud Djoum is now facing a period on the sidelines with a medial ligament injury may increase his chances of a return to the squad in the coming weeks.