Livingston boss John McGlynn had the young talent in his side on his mind when he collected the SPFL Championship Manager of the Month for December.
Two wins and two draws in December continued Livingston’s transformation from being the weakest side in Scotland’s second tier to one on the outskirts of the promotion Play-Off places however their hopes of being involved in a promotion push at the end of the season could hinge on whether three key players remain in West Lothian.
McGlynn said: “We had one point from four games when I went in so we’re very pleased with the position we’re in. Obviously the credit goes to the backroom staff and the players because we work as a team, we work together which is very important.”
“Confidence comes from results. But we can’t get complacent because there’s still a long way to go. We have to maintain our standards. This is a league where the bottom teams can beat the top ones. Look at Cowdenbeath recently who beat Dundee at Dens Park. It is a very tough league and you can’t lose your focus.”
McGlynn was asked if two wins over Dundee had given his side a good platform for a promotion push and he said: “You get confidence from going to Dens Park and winning. Dundee are the top scorers in the league and we went there with a couple of our main defenders out suspended.”
“We also had a couple of lads just back from injury going into the back four and getting a clean sheet was something to be extremely pleased about. We haven’t kept many clean sheets all season and our goals against column is not great.”
Conversely McGlynn added: “ Our goals for record is very good but we haven’t been great defensively so to go to Dens and deservedly get a clean sheet, the goalie didn’t have many saves to make and it gave everyone a lift to go there and win. Now we have to continue to build on what’s in place.”
The former Raith Rovers and Hearts’ boss has now been working at the Energy Assets Arena for 4 months after over 6 months out of work after leaving Tynecastle and he said; “You’re out of work and twiddling your thumbs and people tell you that something will crop up out of the blue but you don’t believe it because you end up being so long out of work.
“The phone call came from Livingston completely out of the blue. I initially went for the job earlier this year when Gareth Evans left and I was out of a job at Hearts for probably less than a week. I obviously didn’t get it then but when it came up the second time well I was delighted especially as location-wise is really good for me. “
“I knew from having managed Raith Rovers for so long and having played against Livingston even though they had gone down to the Third and then come back through that there was a lot of good players there. That has been proven in recent weeks and months.
Livingston are famous for their youth players and McGlynn was asked if he had inherited a good bunch of young players and how they compared to others across Scotland.
McGlynn answered: “I have heard a lot about Dundee United youngsters and how does Scougall compare? This comparing thing is obviously doing the rounds but I’m just delighted there are so many good young players in the country. I hear about this one from this academy or that one from another academy but I’m just delighted there are so many good players and Scougall is up there.”
“I’ve listened to the likes of John Hughes and John Collins in the past and when I went there Scougall was just back from an injury and it probably took him a few games to get back to his best. But I can safely say that in the last three games he has been absolutely outstanding.”
McGlynn added: “He has great skill, great quick feet and can get away from players very quickly. He can run at defenders and commit them by covering the ground quickly. He’s working as hard as he’s ever worked and probably harder. He’s closing down and getting the ball from defenders and doing the dirty side of the game which he probably wasn’t renowned for but he’s doing that as well.”
“He’s up there with any of the players I worked with as young coach at Hearts over a number of years. Obviously Ryan Gauld is an exceptional talent as well and I am delighted Dundee United have good players and I’m delighted Livingston have good players and that the Hearts’ young lads are good players”
“Aberdeen have Cammy Smith and I’m just delighted there are a lot coming through and that can only help the Scottish international team in the longer term. Dundee United have got good players and there’s the boy Craig Wigton at Dundee coming through who looks like he’s going to be a bit of a player.”
“There are plenty of young player playing with the Clyde’s of the world that are probably going to come through as well. Andy Robertson at Dundee United is a great example as he was at Queen’s Park. Barry Douglas, the left back who went to Poland, is another example.”
“I’m happier about that rather than to compare this one with that.”
The 52 year old praised the Youth work in West Lothian saying: “A youth system is something you have to have in place for a number of years. It will go in cycles - look at Manchester United where you had the Nevilles, Butt, Scholes and Giggs come through. That’s very seldom been repeated even there.”
“It can go through spells but at Livingston we’ve had Leigh Griffiths plus Robert Snodgrass, Graeme Dorrans, Andrew Halliday and probably Murray Davidson would come into that category.”
McGlynn added: “A youth policy is just about working, working and working. We’ve been working at it for a number of years and we need to continue to work at it.”
“You need good staff in it and your recruitment is so important because we have to compete against Hearts, Hibs, Celtic and Rangers and in that middle area you’ve still got Lanarkshire, Falkirk and then you go into Fife.”
“Everyone’s competing for the same players. Selfishly I want all the best young players to come to Livingston even though I know that’s difficult.”
The fruit of the youth policy at Livingston could be getting picked soon with McGlynn saying: “We’ve got three players within this group right now who are getting a hell of a lot of attention and it will be a miracle if I don’t lose at least two of them in this transfer window. I’m confident they will all move on to bigger and better things.”
“Losing two would have a drastic effect on the team. No matter who I replace them with, it won’t be like for like otherwise someone would have had them by now. I think I’d need to be Houdini like to do something in that respect.
“Stefan Scougall and marc McNulty have been around for two or three years and in virtually every transfer window their names have been mentioned. I would have to imagine that even though these lads are on long-term contracts, if we get a good offer I’d imagine they will move on.”
The third prized asset is defender Coll Donaldson and McGlynn said: “Donaldson is slightly different but maybe the greatest of the lot in terms of potential because his attributes as a defender are all there. He’s the right size and very strong and he is the modern day defender in that he’s got two good feet and isn’t just the stopper type of years gone by.”
“Centre backs now take the ball and play and he can certainly do that. He just looks like the ideal defender to play in English football and potentially in the future international football.
McGlynn continued his praise saying: “Livingston as a football club should be promoting their youth at every possible opportunity. It speaks volumes for what the club has done and they should be using this to their advantage.”
"Jim McArthur is the youth scout and works hard in the area, looking at games and watching players. He has good contacts but these players are sought after by a number of clubs. We won't be able to compete financially, but we can point to the players just now and from the past as evidence.
"We can say, 'If you come to Livingston, you will get the chance to play in the first team and move on.”