Malaury Martin has spent time in the eye of the storm in the past so he is not worried about the prospect of a feisty capital derby.
Something of a glory hunter, his choices haven’t always gone down well with those around him. Growing up in Nice, the Hearts midfielder was surrounded by those supporting the hometown team but he always preferred the might of neighbours Monaco.
That view ultimately saw him on the wrong side of the divide on derby days and he has had to weather some tricky situations as a consequence. But the fact he came out of them smiling suggests he has the right temperament to contend with the intense atmosphere of his first Edinburgh head-to-head at Tynecastle this afternoon.
“Monaco and Nice are 20 minutes apart, I was born in Nice and played for Monaco! I promise you it’s a big derby, it’s just like here. They talk about this game for a month before it happens. They are passionate.
“Monaco is obviously smaller in size but the Nice fans are crazy and for them the derby is the most important game of the season. My friends and family are all Nice fans, most of my friends were born there, some have played for the club as well. I’m a little bit of a traitor to them. When I was a kid I also played for Nice so I’m a big traitor to them!
“But I enjoy it because Monaco was always the dream for me – and I realised my dream, which was important to me. At that time, Nice weren’t the team they are now. They were a smaller club, in the Second Division, no really famous players, but now they are so much stronger and their economy is far better.
“Whereas Monaco were right there for me with Trezeguet, Barthez, Henry, John Collins as well, in the Champions League, winning titles… that was my dream. So my team was always Monaco.
“One time in Nice I heard some nice speaking,” he says, sarcastically, recalling one derby visit as a Monaco player. “It was fun! I was in the squad but the coach decided to put me in the tribune [stand]. At that time it was a small stadium and I was in the middle of that.”
The stuff dished out that day by those willing to verbalise their views on his football treachery is the stuff that requires a deaf ear or a thick skin. But when asked if it was worse than being on the pitch, where there is at least some distance between himself and those hurling the abuse, Martin just smiles. “No because we win and I was laughing a little bit into my jacket. I was proud of the badge on my jacket!”
One of nine players brought in to strengthen Hearts during the January window, the French midfielder has shown promise since making his debut in the last round of the Scottish Cup. There were a few new faces against Raith Rovers that day but more are expected to get their first taste of the historic derby. The signs so far have been positive, with a convincing win over Rangers and a further three points against Motherwell. But derbies are unique, leaving some concerned by the prospects of some many first timers. Given the raft of derby experiences Martin has no such fears.
“For me this is not really strange to have all the new players. It was the case one season in Monaco there were four coaches and 25 new players. Some speak Portuguese, some South American, some Croatian, here it is a little the same and it’s not a problem. It’s an international club.
“It’s good. Different cultures, different experiences come together. You have to adapt to the culture in the country which is really important but the mix can make something really good and as a professional footballer you must adapt quickly all the time.
“If I look around me I don’t know if the player next to me is new, is one year, is there for six months. I don’t look at that. He’s a team-mate. What he is good at is more important, what his qualities are.”
And those who have been around the club long enough have not be slow to stress the importance of triumphing in this afternoon’s fifth-round Scottish Cup tie.
“I understand because the first day I was here they told me ‘win the derby’. Of course everyone wants that, but as a player it’s just a step along the way because the objective is to get to the final. It doesn’t matter who we have to beat to get there.”