How Livingston’s top-flight relegation unfolded

Comment on the photo, Livingston manager David Martindale is already planning a Championship campaign

There was no get out of jail card for David Martindale and Livingston this time.

After surviving the odds for five years in the Scottish Premiership, the West Lothian club have been condemned to return to the Championship with three games to play after being long separated at the bottom of the table.

They have never finished lower than ninth since successive promotions ended their 12-year absence from the top flight.

but Abnormal 4-1 Away to Motherwell on Saturday means they are 10 points behind, with Martindale admitting he has already started planning for life in the Championship.

  • author, Clive Lindsay
  • Role, BBC Sport Scotland

So what went wrong and where does it leave Livingston’s future?

The story of the “awkward” season.

Video explanation, Watch the best parts of Livingston’s six-year Premier League stay

A respectable eighth-place finish last season masked problems behind the scenes with Livingston forecasting a loss of £400,000 before tax for the financial year plus £800,000 for 2021-22.

Martindale was left complaining of a “difficult” summer transfer window in which he had to “cut a significant amount of the budget”.

Experienced midfielder Stefan Umionga was among the key exits alongside centre-back duo Nicky Devlin and Jack Fitzwater.

Losing “six or seven goals to other Premier League clubs” added to the frustration of the usual high player turnover.

But the Premiership season started promisingly, and by early October, the team were as high as sixth, having established a seven-point gap between them and St Johnstone at the bottom.

In fact, Livingston rejected an offer for their manager from the Perth club after the Saints released the services of Steven McLean.

However, after a 2-0 defeat at home to Rangers on 12 November amid a run of seven straight defeats and 13 defeats without a win, Livingston found themselves bottom of the table – a position they have held ever since.

With second-placed St Johnstone’s improvement under Craig Levein incremental at best, Martindale still feel confident of catching one of the four clubs still within seven points of them in December.

Courtroom battles over ownership of the club continued behind the scenes despite Baycup Ltd and sole director John McIlvogue being announced as the new majority shareholder in September – and the January transfer window passed without a significant increase in the players’ budget.

With County releasing Derek Adams and promoting former midfielder Don Cowie to caretaker manager in early February, the gap to second place was still six points and Martindale declared that guiding Livingston away from relegation after “three years of hell” would be his “biggest achievement”. “As a coach.

The great escape never came close to becoming a reality with Martindale admitting “embarrassment” at being at the head of the table.

What went wrong in Almondville?

Comment on the photo, A Theo Bair brace helped end Livingston’s remaining hopes at Fir Park

“Our biggest disappointment is consistency,” Martindale noted last week, but it would be harder to pinpoint anything that has gone right for Livingston this season than what has gone wrong.

Martindale’s side rank worst in the division in terms of fewer shots and shots on target, with a conversion rate of just 7.8%.

Defensively, Livingston have conceded the most goals – 63, four more than Dundee, who are next on 59.

With typical candor, Martindale says he made mistakes as did his players, whose five errors that led to goals were the most in the league.

Martindale suggests, quite rightly, that Livingstone’s need to punch above his financial weight had finally caught up with them, but he also admitted that ‘we had not covered ourselves in glory’.

What’s next for Martindale and Levy?

Video explanation, “Serious planning for next season begins” – Martindale

Given that one of McIlvogue’s main aims when buying the club last year was to tie Martindale to a long-term contract, it seems likely that the 49-year-old will have his first taste of being a Championship manager next season.

“If the club wants me here, I will fight here and do everything I can to get the club back into the Premier League,” Martindale said after the match at Fir Park.

“For next year, the aim is to get right back up. But we’re not Hearts or Dundee United. We don’t have the same budget. But I honestly feel like we can.”

Martindale was already planning a summer squad overhaul whether Livingston are relegated or not, with up to 15 departures expected.

However, he noted that he will have a “really strong group of 12-13 players, and we need to build on that.”

In fact, Martindale’s logic is that, having remained competitive in the Premier League on a Championship budget for so long, they have enough funds to be competitive in the second tier.

However, outside the park, owner McIlvogue’s main task will be to ensure Livingston do not go into administration for the third time in their history.

The Glasgow-based businessman, who owns a range of food and drink companies, last year saved Morton’s Rolls from collapse before turning his attention to Livingstone.

He immediately focused on the 10,000-seat stadium which is rarely full – the city’s new residents are notoriously reticent about supporting their local team rather than past inherited loyalties.

In fact, Livingstone’s average gate is the lowest in the first class. Their total number is less than 4,000 out of a population of 57,000 and is about 400 fewer than the Ross District attracts from the population of 5,500 in Dingwall and surrounding areas.

McIlvogue believes he can solve this problem by encouraging greater community involvement – ​​he noted that Livingston are the only Premier League club that does not have its own stadium, and expressed a desire to open discussions with owners West Lothian Council about a purchase.

It has already been announced that its long-standing stadium name sponsorship agreement with Italian catering company Tony Maccarone will be replaced next season, with Almondvale being named Home of the Set Fare Arena following a six-figure deal with the Bathgate taxi firm.

McIlvogue and Martindale are hoping they can put together the right ingredients to put the brakes on Livingston’s slide out of the top flight and put them on the fast track back to the Premier League.

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