• Derek Bell

Living On A Prayer

The Dream team bring their BetFred Cup campaign to an end with a journey to The Pasta Bowl to face SPL side Livingston. A campaign we entered into with little expectation will end with no fanfare and most fans will be glad to see the back of it. Trying to build a brand new team against higher league opposition is never going to be ideal and results so far have confirmed that. So again we travel with no great expectations, it would appear that the best most of us are hoping for is to avoid a hammering and maybe even grab a goal.

A Pasta Bowl, with Macaroni

Livvy enter the game on the back of two 2-1 victories over Ayr and Stranraer and a penalty shoot out bonus point 'win' over Falkirk following a 1-1 draw. Goals so far coming from Aymen Souda with two, Rickie Lamie and Lyndon Dykes and Stevie Lawless with a penalty. Sitting top of the group Livingston know a win or a shoot out victory will guarantee a place in the second round. Any other result will leave them hanging on the result of the Ayr v Stranraer game and potentially those elsewhere if they require one of the best second place spots.

Livingston were officially formed in 1995 when they took over Meadowbank Thistle, relocated them to West Lothian and with the help of the Livingston Development Corporation a brand new stadium. The logic behind the move was that the Bankies were suffering low crowds and facing severe financial difficulties. The loyal Bankies fans were furious at the loss of the name and the move from Edinburgh. In effect this was to be pretty much the first example of franchise football in the UK, a subject that remains highly emotive. The next 24 years would be equally controversial and turbulent, and Livvy would become a Scottish Football soap opera. Not a particularly popular one outside West Lothian either.

The old Bankies

The new Livvy

The 'new' team were to have immediate success being champions of the Third Divison in 1995/96, champions of the Second Division in 1998/99 and Champions of the First Division in 2000/01. Reaching the SPL just six seasons after relocation and finishing third in their first season with qualification for the UEFA Cup resulting. They would go on to win the League Cup in 2003/04 beating Hibs 2-0 with goals from Derek Lilley and Jamie McAllister. The League Cup win being all the more surprising as just four weeks prior to this Livvy went into administration for the first time (oh yes, there's more).

This period of administration would last for fifteen months before Pearse Flynn and the Lionheart consortium took over. Flynn would work his way through several big 'name' managers including Richard Gough and Paul Lambert. All to no avail as they were to be relegated at the end of 2005/06 with a record low of 18 points.

Massone needed more than 25k to smoke away

2008 saw Flynn sell his shares to a consortium led by Angelo Massone, and if the club thought they had been through turbulent times already it was to get much worse. Under Massone they were placed into administration in July 2009 and were looking at being thrown out of the SFL. By the end of July they faced the prospect of liquidation with Massone refusing a £25, 000 offer for the club. They were saved by the SFL agreeing to allow prospective owners The Livingston Five Consortium run the club for a season, with Massone eventually selling up and moving out. That August the SFL took the decision to demote Livvy to the Third. They then boycotted their opening match and despite initially being fined for this, it was overturned and they ended up not being punished for the boycott.

They would go on to win the league, sealing the title in a 0-0 home draw with the Dream Team, Berwick having a last minute penalty saved. The following season saw them win the Second Division Title and return the to the First Division.

It will come as no surprise to learn that the following years would see turmoil on and off the pitch. The lifespan of a Livvy manager would be something similar to that of a Mayfly, there were relegation battles and eventual relegation after five years in the first (losing an epic play 8-6 to Stranraer after extra-time in the second game), a points deduction and an attempt by a former director to freeze their bank accounts.

At this point, given their history, Livvy made a surprise decision and stuck with David Hopkin as manager. A decision that would prove to be about the best one they ever made - winning the title and continuing the form the following season to reach the play-offs, beating Partick to gain promotion to the SPL. True to form Hopkin would leave in the close season to be replaced by Kenny Miller who would be gone 'amicably' by 19 August following a debate around whether he should focus more on his role as a manager than that of a player. Which brings us up to date with Gary Holt as manager since then having guided them to the safety of a ninth place finish 12 points clear of the relegation play off place, this after a bright start that saw them as high as third in the early autumn.

Hopkin survived longer than most

Since 1995 Livvy have had 27 different managerial spells with a few repeat performances and have shown a remarkable ability to attract well known names into the hot seat.

For Berwick fans tomorrow also has the added frisson of coming up against current Livvy Chairman and former Berwick Chairman Robert Wilson. He of course presided over our greatest season and although things seemed to fall apart afterwards with his tenure ending in acrimony between fans and board now be as good a time as any to acknowledge that fact. If only in the hope he won't have too much too gloat over.

Given Livingston's constant changing of division and shirt history we haven't actually met them that much. Only 13 times in total with 6 Livvy wins, 5 draws and 2 Berwick wins.

One player we won't be coming up against tomorrow is Cameron Blues who has today gone on loan to Morton. Blues, of course, had 15 games for us at the back end of last season scoring two goals.

You can download a copy of the match programme here https://drive.google.com/file/d/1g_el5ZpZ9UHlyzCeS40ZjRwr9hOXc2de/view

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