Livingston football club are back. Having been dropped to the Third Division due to the financial irregularities that dogged it in season 2008/09, Livingston has won both the Third and the Second Divisions in a row. Romping to both titles with little in the way of opposition, Livingston were a full-time club in amongst part-timers. They fell majestically down two divisions and took with them players on full-time contracts with full-time wages. That they won the Third Division easily was hardly a surprise, but the crowds they attracted wouldn’t have paid the bills. The Second Division was slightly trickier but no less financially challenging.
Looking at the final table would make you think Livingston had the Second Division secured by early February but the reality was that it was won with time to spare but some of the performances were shaky. Gary Bollan has taken the club from the depths of the Third and is now waiting to try his hand at the First. Considering the pre season schedule he has put together for the Club you would think he was getting prepared for an assault on the SPL and the Europa League!
The major issue for Lions fans must be that the budget won’t stretch to buying or bringing in big names. The Second Division saw bigger gates but not greater resources so it was no surprise that on Friday the 8th July 2011 Gary Bollan made his FIRST signing of the pre season. Whilst other clubs have been working hard to bring in fresh blood and new faces, Bollan has been creating a schedule to draw his team together ready for their biggest challenge as a club since fending off bankruptcy.
Their two keepers return for another season and man of many clubs, Tony Bullock who played the second half of the friendly against Hibs, will be joined again by Darren Jamieson.
In defence I think we start to see where there may be some cracks. Having secured his release from Hearts Jonathon Brown has signed on with Livingston – their first signing. With Mick O’Byrne staying in Division Two with Albion Rovers as well as Chris Malone – now at Airdrie United – you could think these two players have found their level and are not ready for the step up with Livingston. Certainly the back line with Cameron MacDonald, Craig Barr – who was secured on a new two-year deal in May, Callum Fordyce, Jason Talbot and Paul Watson is settled but it could be a struggle for the year keeping out First Division forwards. Their togetherness as a unit may help but the First is an unforgiving environment.
In the centre the losses have been Joe Hamill going to Raith Rovers and Aaron Conway off to Peterhead. Hamill will be a loss and there is no news of a replacement. Mind you there is plenty of cover with David Sinclair, Liam Fox – who was also secured on a new two-year deal in May, Keaghan Jacobs, Kyle Jacobs, Dean Cummings, Ross Gray, Bobby Barr and Stefan Scougall. They have to remain injury free and avoid suspensions but security may be the target so it would be less important than if they were fighting relegation…
Up front they are light. Signed on are Marc McNulty, Iain Russell and the good Dr Kenny Deuchar. Having lost long-term forward, Italian Raffaele De Vita to Paulo Di Canio’s Swindon Town and releasing veteran Robbie Winters they could do with recruiting a few more for cover.
Of course the under 19s at Livingston won the SFL under 19 league last year so there should be enough cover to come in with some experience to help out. Problem is that bleeding the new blood in tends only to be popular when you are winning with time to spare or seriously safe.
The very first two pre season games have already happened and Livingston managed to beat a distracted Hibs two – one whilst drawing one-one with Dunfermline. There are further games against SPL opposition Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hearts to come. It should set them up for the first competitive game in the Ramsden’s Cup away to Airdrie United, whilst they entertain more Second Division opposition at home to Arbroath. Their first league game at home against Queen of the South will be the real test.
If Livingston are to gain a foothold on the Division out of which they believe they were unfairly thrown then they need to get out the Cups or use them as a springboard. Both games will be meaningless in the short-term but significant long-term. Their home game against Queen of the South will be the real test. Morton, Dundee and Hamilton follow. At least six points out the first four league games would be good as I think Livingston may struggle. 8th or 9th might be a realistic target this year and the following season an opportunity for the Club to use the season to rebuild financially and plan more effectively for the future.
At the end of last season Livingston unwittingly became a party to the pantomime of the sacking of Alan Maitland at Alloa. Beating Alloa three – one didn’t get him the sack but the Livi players were in the away dressing room as Alloa got rid of their manager in the home dressing room. This year they will hope that they are not involved in anything so dramatic at the end of the year as safety and security is the key for them this year.