Trophy Day in West Lothian

Saturday 30th April 2011

Livingston’s Chief Executive, Ged Nixon, believes that Saturday’s double title winning celebration at the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium will be a great reward for everyone involved with the West Lothian club on and off the pitch.

Ged NixonGary Bollan’s Lions are picking up the IRN-BRU SFL Second Division Championship trophy and Brian Welsh’s Under-19 side are also receiving the SFL Under-19 Youth Division Championship trophy with everyone connected to the club extremely proud of both achievements.

Nixon said: “This weekend will be massive for the club as not only do we have the first team and the youth team picking up awards, it also marks our return to the First Division. For a lot of us, it is where we thought we would be starting off a couple of years ago at the club.”

The support he has for the Lions goes back further than the summer of 2009 when himself, Gordon McDougall, Neil Rankine and Robert Wilson led a consortium to take charge after the reign of Angelo Massone.

Nixon gave a brief history of his involvement with the club advising: “I was a long term commercial backer of Livingston Football Club which was established with the club’s Commercial Manager Charles Burnett many years ago. I became more actively involved in supporting the club during the days of Pierce Flynn however, I was much more in the background in the Massone days.

Livingston FC Chairman, Gordon McDougall“I was involved with the Livi for Life Supporters Trust and started to formulate a plan to resurrect the club when it became apparent there were problems in 2008. You could see Administration looming in the horizon and contact was made between myself and Gordon McDougall about taking the club forward.

“It is just as well that contact was made as the financial troubles were not going to be solved by one person.”

Former Dumbarton Board member Rankine also came on board as a private investor and one time Berwick Rangers Chairman Wilson also joined up for what Nixon laughingly described as: “The four of us were the vanguard of the new Livingston.”

Having taken control of the club, what happened next was not on Nixon’s business plan as the club were demoted two divisions as a result of the financial issues inherited from the previous owners.

Nixon said: “Being demoted to the Third Division was the real low point of the past two years and was a hammer blow but we rolled our sleeves up and got on with things. It has been hard going especially when you are saddled with the liabilities we had picked up.”

Gary Bollan and Scott PatersonThe new broom at the club had already appointed a Manager before the demotion decision was announced with former Dundee United, Rangers and St. Johnstone player Bollan stepping into his first managerial appointment in July 2009.

It has been an appointment that has worked with Nixon saying: “Gary was coming on board to be a First Division Manager but things changed and he has done a terrific job as has his assistant Scott Paterson. They deserve great credit for leading us back to the First Division in the quickest possible time.”

Bollan may just have a great future ahead of him with Nixon explaining: “We have to thank Gordon for appointing Gary and when you consider his history in managerial making appointments, it is no surprise he has done well.

"Gordon gave Craig Levein and Mixu Paatelainen their starts in management and they have gone on to become international Managers.  Gordon obviously has a knack of identifying good young Managers and he got it right with Gary.”

Iain Russell in action for LivingstonBollan has tinkered with the squad that brought Third Division success with Nixon saying: “By and large, we have kept the same squad although guys like Steve Tosh dipped in and out to help us get over the Third Division finishing line.

“We brought Iain Russell in and he is now the record holder for the goals scored in a season for the club.  He had offers to go elsewhere including the chance to stay in the First Division with Morton but he decided to come here. He has been terrific for us and hopefully, we have been good for Iain as well as he had not been very settled last season.”

The Lions’ heaviest defeat of the season prompted a discussion on the team bus on the way home that resulted in another striker joining the club with Nixon saying: “Our season had been going okay but at the beginning of 2011, we lost 3-0 up at Peterhead. We were all scratching our heads to what had happened and the feeling was that we had a number of good strikers at the club but they were all quite similar. We did not have someone that could give us something different should things not be working out.

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“We had spoken to Kenny Deuchar during the summer but he had opted for Falkirk however, Gary got in touch with Steven Pressley on the way back from Balmoor and that led to Kenny coming on board.”

Braidwood Motor Company StadiumOff the field, Nixon was also keen to thank the team of volunteers that have helped keep the West Lothian club afloat over the past two years and he believes that the double title winning celebrations at the Braidwood Motor Company Stadium will be a great reward for them.

He said: “When we took over the club two years ago, we had to adopt a massive cost cutting exercise. The business would have failed if we had kept paying out the money we had been, so we had to turn to the Livi for Life Supporters Trust to ask for match day volunteers.

“We needed people to operate the turnstiles, sell programmes and do jobs about the stadium and they rose to the challenge. Their support has been fantastic and Saturday is a reward for them.”

LIVI for LIFEThe Livi Chief Executive added: “We are talking about people that support our club by buying season tickets even though they will miss part of every game due to their duties and I cannot praise them highly enough.

“Everything they do increases their shareholding in the club and creates a greater level of engagement and without their help to cut costs, we may not have had an Iain Russell or Kenny Deuchar to help us on the pitch.

“Supporter numbers overall have increased during the last two seasons, which sounds fantastic, but has to be tempered with a low starting off point in the Third Division but having a winning team on the pitch certainly helps that. We were on a downward curve because of what was going on in season 2008/09 but we are building alliances between the club and fans again and we have probably increased our fan base by 20%.

“There is a good feeling about Livingston which was simply not there two years ago.”

FasteqThat good feeling has been crucial as the club looks to bring backers back to the club with Nixon saying: “Having Fasteq and the Braidwood Motor Company here as sponsors has been fantastic as well and they have helped restore the reputation of the club as well as assisting in other ways.”

The future also looks bright with the youth system that has produced the exciting talent of Graham Dorrans, Robert Snodgrass and Leigh Griffiths cranking into gear again after almost being derailed two years ago.

Leigh Griffiths in action for LivingstonNixon advised: “We lost our SFA Youth Initiative status two years ago and thought we had done enough to get back in but we were not allowed. We had to stay out of the SFA programme and that was hard to take and we lost a lot of good kids to other clubs at various age groups as the boys wanted competitive football.

“We were able to field a side in the SFL Under-17 and Under-19 Youth Divisions and have this season won the title at Under-19 level, our fourth season in a row of success.

"We have now reached the Semi-Finals of the SFA Youth Cup for two seasons in a row and have lost out to Celtic. They have gone on to win the cup on both occasions and we are really proud of how our boys have competed against them.”

These youngsters will move on to fight for first team places with Nixon saying: “Callum Fordyce made his debut for the first team last Saturday against Airdrie and through time, I expect to see more of them come through. That has to be the future of this club but done properly this time.

Callum Fordyce“We do not want to sell our best players but if we do, the club should get best value for them and that has not always happened in the past. If that happens, everyone can shake hands and wish the player all the best for the rest of their career.”

Nixon will not be able to let his hair down during the game on Saturday despite the double presentation saying: “I am on duty so cannot be enjoying myself too much but we have our Player of the Year Dance on Saturday night and I am sure I will enjoy that.

“After what people here have been through, players, fans and supporters, it is great to see smiles about the place. People now want to come in to work here as opposed to dreading coming here.”

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