It’s fair to say Saturday was the day we could all comfortably say “goodbye” to Livingston Football Club as a Scottish top-flight outfit. 

The Lions are now ten points adrift of Ross County at the foot of the Premiership table. Although they have a bit of the Houdinis about them, even this feels like too much for them to escape. They would need to win five, maybe even six, of their final eight games to stand a chance. A tall order in itself for any team outside of Glasgow, let alone one who went months without winning at all. 

The game at Easter Road highlighted exactly why Livingston are condemned to the trap door. Not only did they fail to score against a Hibs team that seems to draw every other game 2-2, their defence gave up any hope of a result within 22 minutes. Livi teams in the top flight have previously been offensively challenged, but they’ve never had a defence as bad as this one. There’s no point in making yourself hard to beat if your centre-backs and full-backs are going to make cataclysmic errors on weekly basis. It was always going to be a tall order to keep replacing quality with quality when working on such a tight budget, and signings like Michael Nottingham and Mikey Devlin simply haven’t worked. 

Many people reading this will be thinking “good riddance” with regards to the West Lothian club and their impending relegation. And not without just cause. They have a horrible plastic pitch, they were frequently an absolute pain in the backside to play against, and their home ground belongs in some kind of microclimate where even if you’re attending in August you need to wear a winter jacket.

But not this writer. There’s something about Livi that I’m going to miss from Scottish football’s elite. 

Everything I said above is absolutely true, but it gave the Lions an identity. They stood out in a league where essentially you only have four different types of clubs. Celtic and Rangers are the same (bum cheeks etc); Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen are all moderately big, consistent underachievers; Killie, Motherwell, St Mirren, Dundee - the same; and then there’s the minnow overachievers in St Johnstone and County. Livingston seem like they should belong in the latter group, but they always felt like they belonged in a category of their own?; a proper Cinderella outfit, but with a punk aura. They were interlopers. Nobody was quite sure how they managed to make it into the top flight, but once they were here they were out to f*** s*** up. 

They were the home of the reclamation project. I’d lost count the number of times Livingston signed someone who I immediately assumed wouldn’t be equipped to meet the standards of the Premiership and yet they became important first-team regulars. I eventually gave up and just assumed guys like James Penrice and Daniel MacKay would end up being quality additions. 

This was also a club which played a significant role in the uptick in fortunes of the Scottish national team. Sure, Queen of the South were the side who brought Lyndon Dykes back to the country of his heritage, but Livi were the Premiership club willing to take a chance on a forward who scored only two league goals his final campaign in the Scottish Championship. Regardless of what you think of Dykes as a player, you surely must admit he’s done Scotland a turn: coming up big in some huge moments and providing a focal point that just didn’t exist before his debut. Do you really think we would’ve beat Serbia with any of the other options in attack at the time? Oli McBurnie? Callum Patterson? A strangely-already-past-it Leigh Griffiths? Please.

I loved the career arc of Scott Pittman: someone who played junior football alongside his future manager, suffered relegation with the team to League One in his first season and went on to become one of the most consistently impressive attacking midfielders in the top flight. I enjoyed Jason Holt being turned from a No.10 into a tenacious, sweep-up-everything, recycle-possession No.6; Marvin Bartley showing Hibs that they were daft to let him leave too early (they still haven’t adequately replaced him); Joel Nouble being plucked from complete obscurity; Scott Robinson getting transformed from a defensive midfielder into a grafting centre forward; Aberdeen getting tricked into thinking Jay Emmanuel-Thomas was a decent player. The list goes on. 

Then there’s David Martindale. Always entertaining to listen to, impossible to dislike, a guy who just comes across as totally genuine; a lesson in life that people deserve second chances. Did we ever think we’d see a man who spent years in prison come within 90 minutes of lifting a major Scottish trophy? (Though perhaps his greatest crime was playing Bartley at left wing-back in the final - ba dum tss.) Martindale never hid from the fact he did wrong. He took full responsibility for his actions in an age where it seems impossible for anyone in the public eye to say sorry. 

It’s likely because of his past that he’s never earned the upwards career move his managerial abilities deserve. Making Livingston not only competitive at the highest level, but a top-six club on more than one occasion is a tremendous achievement and would typically be rewarded with a move to a bigger team with a vastly improved salary. Instead, Martindale has to keep plugging away because club chiefs are too nervous about the headlines his hiring could bring. 

(As a brief aside before we wrap up, perhaps my favourite thing about the entire Livi experience was their commitment to pretending Martindale wasn’t the manager the entire time. “Oh, what a job Gary Holt is doing!” Hahahaha, the guy was basically there to take the press conferences.) 

However, there’s also a sense that Martindale belongs at Livingston. He does absolutely everything for the club and if he ever left they would need to replace him with six different people. Would working within a structure where he’s got a sporting director, a head of recruitment and all the other trimmings of a big club work for him? I’m not so sure. Besides, as he’s said many, many times over, he’s got a great deal of gratitude to Livingston for taking a chance on him. He is the reclamation project who creates other reclamation projects.

I’ll miss Martindale and I’ll miss his Livingston team. But if he does decide to stick around, you really wouldn’t be surprised to see them return to the Premiership in the near future.