SCOTTISH football has no shortage of examples to point to of poorly-run clubs. Since the turn of the century, a dozen clubs have entered administration because of bad financial management.

Rangers are the obvious example here but there are other clubs whose names are attached to the roll of dishonour. Gretna and Clydebank both went to the wall and the list of Scottish teams to have entered administration over the last 20 years is depressingly long. Hearts, Dunfermline, Dundee (twice) and Livingston (also twice) are just some of the clubs to have dangled over the precipice of financial oblivion in recent history.

It is easy to look at clubs such as these and draw the conclusion that Scottish football has a real problem of living within its financial means. But that would do a disservice to the other sides in the Scottish football pyramid who are sensibly run, despite the obvious counter-examples.

Over the last few years, one of the aforementioned clubs has since became arguably the best-run team in the country. Not bad for a side that has had its very existence questioned on multiple occasions in the last 20 or so years.


The rise of Livingston over the last three years has been nothing short of remarkable. On paper, the West Lothian team are a provincial club with a relatively small fanbase, yet here we are two-thirds of the way through the campaign and the possibility of Gary Holt's side qualifying for European football next season doesn't seem all that far-fetched.

Lest we forget, it was only three-and-a-half years ago that Livi were relegated from the Championship and found themselves in Scotland's third tier. Back-to-back promotions to seal a Premiership return followed in the next two seasons - something that even Rangers were unable to achieve as they worked their way up the lower leagues - and by December of their first season back in the top flight, Livingston were virtually guaranteed their safety.

They did so despite losing David Hopkin, the man who successfully guided the club back to the Premiership. They also closed their youth academy and had Kenny Miller in place as a player-manager for the start of the season, yet survived comfortably in the end.

Then, last summer, more upheaval. The spine of the team that had served Livi so well over the last two years was surgically removed as players departed for pastures new. Liam Kelly, Craig Halkett, Declan Gallagher, Shaun Byrne and Ryan Hardie all left the club; between them, they made 175 appearances for the Lions in the 2018/2019 campaign.


Few would have been surprised if results took a noticeable downturn this season. But the opposite has happened. Livingston look better than ever and look a safe bet to finish in the top six.

So, how do they do it? Each season seems to heap more adversity on Livingston, yet the club consistently come out the other end in better shape than they previously were. It is a remarkable - and extremely impressive - habit to have developed.

The answer appears to lie primarily within the club's recruitment. Livi hold no illusions of grandeur: they know their place in the grand scheme of things and accept that if a player excels during their time at the Tony Macaroni Arena, it is surely only a matter of time before a bigger club comes swooping in. They don't stand in their players' way but the club have an exceptional eye for talent.

Halkett was brought in after being released by Rangers. So was Kelly. Gallagher was brought in after being deemed surplus to requirements at Dundee after the Tayside club sealed promotion in 2013/14. Others - like Lyndon Dykes, Robbie Crawford and Scott Robinson to name just three - were snapped up from the lower leagues after showing promise in the second and third tiers. Ayr midfielder Alan Forrest is joining in the summer after agreeing a pre-contract agreement and looks a savvy acquisition, too. Only Lawrence Shankland and Kevin Nisbet have scored more Championship goals than Forrest this season.


Some signings were opportunistic; Stevie Lawless and Chris Erskine were recruited from Partick Thistle once they were relegated, Marvin Bartley was brought in after being let go by Hibernian (a decision that looks more and more baffling with each passing game) and earlier this week, Efe Ambrose was brought in on an 18-month contract on a free transfer.

It is perhaps this transfer acumen that best typifies the exemplary work taking place in West Lothian. More often than not, playing budgets determine a team's final league position come the end of the season but Livi are bucking the trend in this regard. Their annual outlay on wages is the second-lowest in the Premiership - only Hamilton have a smaller budget - yet Holt's side continue to punch above their weight.


When it comes to clubs overperforming and defying expectations though, it would be remiss not to give honourable mentions to Championship duo Alloa and Arbroath. The former proved last season that a part-time team could survive in Scotland's second tier while the latter are now showing that you don't have to be full-time to thrive. Dick Campbell has dragged the Angus club from League Two into the Championship and the club are now making an unlikely tilt for the play-offs. Both deserve a tremendous amount of credit.

So here's to the Livingstons of this country. All too often it's easy to get sucked into negative stories and despair about the state of our country's footballing landscape but there are examples of fantastically-run clubs all around us. We just need to look for them.