What did you make of Livingston’s performance in the defeat against Rangers?
“I don’t think we offered much in an attacking threat in the first half, even the second, but in the first, it was kind of overtaken with VAR I felt, it was erratic and chaotic. We got for me, a penalty against us that was never a penalty, the second one was a stonewaller but the first wasn’t.
“You’re looking at two goals that were disallowed and I think they were rightly disallowed, but still at that point it gets played through, it’s taking VAR two or three minutes to make these decisions, so for two or three minutes we’re on edge and we feel as though we’ve lost a goal and then it gets overturned then bang – you were into the next VAR decision, then you were into the penalty and obviously you’ve lost a goal between that.
“So, I don’t think we were good enough in offensive areas, but we managed to stay in the game but after watching the game back, the first half wasn’t as bad as it felt on the side of the dugout.
“Once Rangers get the second goal, we never laid a glove on them and it was more about safety, to be honest, the boys probably dropped 10, 15 yards not wanting to concede another goal, and we come away with a 2-0 defeat without causing Rangers any problems. When I first came into the Premiership, and to where I find it now, I think there is a bigger gap now between the Old Firm and the rest of the league.”
VAR has been in our game for a year what do you make of it and is there anything you would change?
“I was a big advocate of it and I’m still trying to be positive about it – it costs the club £120,000 to have VAR, just Livingston as a club this year, we’ve got to buy into it, so it’s a percentage, we finished 8th and we pay a percentage of the VAR figure, if you finish 7th there’s a percentage, and if you win the league you’re paying a bigger chunk of VAR.
“The £120,000 could’ve bought me two players but I was happy to do it because I felt it was going to lead to a better product on the park with better decision making but now, I’m not so sure that’s the case, and if I’m honest, I probably am still positive about VAR.
“I look at the penalty decision from the first half that Tavernier misses – I don’t know how that can be given as a penalty with technology and obviously it’s subjective but I thought VAR was going to take the subjectiveness out of the decision-making, having that technology but it doesn’t seem like it’s been doing that but I think the delays are killing us, it’s killing the game.
“We should be happy with delays against the Old Firm when they come to our stadium but even for me, it’s taking too long to make these decisions, it doesn’t need to take three or four minutes for a decision to be made.
“It’s going to stay anyway, and I think they would have the goal line technology up here if they could but clubs like us, we can’t afford that, along with the clubs in the bottom six, £120,000 for VAR is a lot of money for us. So, I think the technology is here to stay but I think we’ve got to get better at using it.”
You appointed former Hamilton manager Brian Rice as your first-team coach, talk me through how that came about?
“We lost a coach last year in Christophe Berra and we had to cut the budget between the staff and the players by £200,000. I felt as though we were spreading ourselves too thin, and if we’re winning games of football, you can probably get away with it, but we were spreading ourselves too thin in terms of the everyday what we need to do in the building, coaching the players, reserve games, analysts, there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done.
“I spoke to Dave Black, and I said ‘I need a wee bit of a hand here, the staff need a wee bit of a hand, can you find some money to bring a coach in’, and to be fair to the board they said ‘go do it, if that’s what you feel you need to do, go do it.’
“So, I approached Brian, and I always felt as though I’ve had a good working relationship with him in football, and historically I’ve always had a young coaching staff, I’ve always given young coaches an opportunity – Liam Fox, Dougie Imrie, Marvin Bartley, Neil Hastings, who’s my assistant manager just now, all fairly young coaches. I just felt for me, I needed a wee bit of experience in the building and it’s nice to have someone in the building who’s older than me.
“You hear a lot in your coaching courses, speaking to different people, ‘get someone with grey hair in your staff’, now that’s me I’ve got the grey hair, but what that means is put someone in your staff that’s older than you because they’ve got a different skillset, different experience because I’ve genuinely recruited coaches with no experience of being a coach and I felt it was important for my own evolution, for my own development to help the staff within the environment, to appoint someone with more experience than myself.”
Malky Mackay was sacked as Ross County manager, what’s your thoughts on that?
“My initial thoughts were that I was saddened. I really like Malky, I’ve got a lot of time for him, I think he’s a top coach. I sent him a wee voice message yesterday it was probably a wee bit too soon but every manager that gets sacked I’ve had a relationship with.
“I don’t mean this in a bad way, but I think this could be a blessing in disguise for Malky, not being at a club, I think he’ll get snapped up – I’m not saying a bigger club than Ross County, I don’t mean it like that because County are a fantastic club, but I think he’ll find himself at a good club, he’ll have another opportunity.
“Ross County gave him that opportunity and that was down to Roy MacGregor, and I think Malky will find that other opportunities will open up as a coach and as a manager. As a person, I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him.
“I don’t want to be criticising Roy, or giving my opinion on how Ross County should be run because I don’t know the inner works of the club and what’s happened, but I am saddened to see that Malky is away, and I’ve got no doubt in my mind that he’ll pick up another job.”
Livingston denied St Johnstone permission to speak to you to become their manager, how did it feel knowing that another club was interested in you?
“It was nice to hear that there was another Premiership club that have been looking at my credentials and characteristics and think ‘I wouldn’t mind him at our club’, so that was nice.
“Ultimately, I knew it was always going to come down to Livingston, if whether I’m contract or not in contract, my future at Livingston will be decided by Livingston, not by David Martindale.
“This club has changed my life, they gave me the opportunity be a manager in the Premiership in Scotland – I’ll never leave this club at my own choice. So, I spoke to Dave [Black], he originally got the phone call, and he said to me that he wanted me to stay, and it really was that simple – five minutes later I went back out and took training. So, I am fairly humbled that a club like St Johnstone wanted me, but my future is always going to be decided by the upstairs at the football club rather than myself.”
Kilmarnock are getting rid of their plastic pitch, do you think Livingston will get rid of theirs at some point in the future?
“I think we’re going to need a lot of investment for that to happen. I was speaking about this yesterday, we’ve got roughly between the academy and the women’s team and the first team, we’ve probably got 400 people using the pitch on a weekly basis.
“So, you’ve got the woman’s team, the first team and the academy, for us to not have that and put a grass park down – I think that’s going to have a burden on the club of somewhere around of £300,000 a year in terms of what facility we’re using.
“You’ve then got the next part – our office is where we work at the club, everything is in the club, the gymnasium, the canteen, manager’s office – where do you find that elsewhere?
“The utopia would be if someone came in with money and builds an astroturf park out the back and turned this into a grass park in the main stadium – that would be utopia but for that to happen I think you’re close to probably £1.5 to £2 million to actually build a new astroturf surface in one of the big car parks in the back and then change astroturf surface into a grass park. So, where do we find £1.5 or £2 million, so we probably won’t get rid of it – not under the current ownership model.”
Livingston are bottom of the league right now but are only six points off the top six, do you think Livingston have a realistic chance of making the top six this season?
“I think I’ve got to focus on Livingston in the league. The start of the year, I was very vocal on it, very honest, which I always try to be, and I said that this was going to be my toughest season in the Premiership, including the first season in the Premiership – I knew this season was going to be tough.
“I am disappointed and frustrated at where we find ourselves, but I know we’ve got enough to stay in this league. Before I can even start thinking about top six – my objective is to keep this club in the Premiership and ensure we climb the table as quickly as possible.”
The transfer window is a couple of months away, can we expect to see any business happening?
“I hope so, but in reality, two or three players need to move – I’ve not got any money to spend. So, two or three players need to move for two or three players to come in, it’s kind of a factor in the business model that I can’t control, I’ve got no control over it.
“I told three players last year that they could move on but are still here and if they move on it’ll probably give me a wee bit of money to spend to bring new players in. At this moment in time, I would like to think so but I’m not overly optimistic.”
By: Scott Bradley / @ScottBradleyX
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Paul Devlin – SNS Group