Livingston are just 180 minutes away from becoming one of the most miraculous tales of recent times in Scottish football.

On a reputed annual budget of £250,000, Livingston could be promoted to the Ladbrokes Premiership under the managerial guidance of David Hopkin.

At the start of the season, it’s fair to say you would have got some impressive odds on that scenario. To put it into perspective, Dundee United’s budget is around £1.2m. The average attendance at the Tony Macaroni Arena is roughly 1000. The average wage is £350 a week. It truly would be an astonishing feat considering what Hopkin has to work with. Players have been signed from Junior football and moulded alongside some journeyman pros to create a team who continue to defy all the odds.

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Much has been spoken about guys like Stevie Clarke, Neil Lennon, Jack Ross and Brendan Rodgers. Rightfully so. All of them could have easily won the top manager gong on any given day. But the story – and manager of the season if Livingston do get promoted – has to be David Hopkin.

It would be Hollywood movie material.

I also think it’s easy to forget what a good playing career big Hoppy had. You don’t play for clubs like Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leeds United and not gain seven caps for your country if you aren’t a very decent footballer. That experience he gained as a player has proved invaluable in his young coaching career so far.

It’s so much easier if you have a big budget and playing squad to chop and change when things aren’t going well or you have a few injuries. Hopkin has gone with a solid core of 12 to 14 players all season. It’s all he has anyway. To achieve what he has requires intense coaching every single day.

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Man management is so important with such a small pool. On the training field, with no money to bring anyone in, is where

the real coaching happens. The spirit that he has fostered within that group has been a joy to behold.

They have an insatiable desire and appetite on the park and that hunger probably stems from not earning a lot of money thus playing for win bonuses and proving people and the rest of the league wrong. They have certainly done that all season so far.

I will be brutally honest – Livingston are

not the easiest on the eye to watch for the neutral. They lump it long and play off second balls. But when you have a tiny budget you need to find a style of play that suits the personnel you have. Hopkin has done that superbly.

The three centre backs Alan Lithgow, Craig Halkett and Declan Gallagher are no nonsense and know their job – keep the ball out their own net at all costs. The amount of times they risk life and limb to block shots is remarkable. They get it forward early and play off the evergreen Lee Miller.

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It’s simple but effective. Players know exactly what they are doing on the pitch.

That, believe me, is a skill that comes directly from coaching on the training ground.

There have been claims by rival fans and some members of the media that Livingston are hatchet men or boot other teams off the park. All absolute nonsense of course.

There is also a wee bit of snobbery around Hopkin probably due to his team’s robust style of play. Again that is nonsense. He should have bundles of suitors come the summer even if they don’t go up. What he has achieved has been monumental.

They will, of course, come up against a Partick Thistle side who have underachieved all season. Thistle have a lot of quality in their ranks but seem to have a bit of a soft underbelly. That will be brutally exposed by Livingston if the Jags don’t match them physically.

It’s undeniable that they have better players individually than Livingston. Kris Doolan, Chris Erskine, Adam Barton and Steven Lawless are all technically very good footballers. The Jags showed they do have an inner steel and the ability to handle pressure by going up to Dens Park and winning a must-win game.

It will all come down to Thistle winning the battle then using their quality to go and win the tie. If they don’t match the hunger and desire that Hopkin’s men will undoubtedly bring, this particular fairytale will have a happy ending for everyone associated with the lions of Livingston.