IAN LADYMAN: Livingston boss David Martindale deserves a second chance

IAN LADYMAN: Livingston boss David Martindale deserves a second chance after serving time in prison for drug dealing and money laundering… if the SFA turn their backs on him, it would be archaic, very unjust and deeply hypocritical

  • The fine progress of Livingston is one of the stories of the season in Scotland 
  • They have won six and drawn two of their last eight Scottish Premiership games 
  • Their boss, David Martindale, has a criminal past and his problems begin there 
  • He is waiting for the SFA to decide if he passes their ‘fit and proper person’ test 

One of the recent stories of the season in Scotland is the progress of Livingston. Under new manager David Martindale, the club have won six and drawn two of their last eight Scottish Premiership games.

On Sunday they beat St Mirren 1-0 in the Scottish League Cup semi-final.

Martindale, though, has a criminal past and this is where his problems begin.

Livingston manager David Martindale deserves a second chance despite his criminal past

Having been appointed manager just before Christmas, he is waiting for the Scottish Football Association to decide if he passes their ‘fit and proper person’ test. As it stands, they are yet to rubber stamp his appointment.

So what is Martindale’s story? Never good enough to make it as a professional, he ran a pub and restaurant business that hit financial difficulties almost 20 years ago. He turned to crime — drug dealing and money laundering essentially — was caught in 2004, sentenced two years later and served four.

Martindale could have returned to crime on his release. Many do. Instead he turned to football, first as a volunteer on the Livingston ground staff and then, slowly over the years, moving into coaching taking his qualifications and, eventually, reaching first-team level. 

Under Martindale, Livingston have won six and drawn two from their last eight league games

When manager Gary Holt quit last November, Martindale took the team on and was subsequently offered the job.

How you view this story depends on your outlook on life, I suppose. If you believe in second chances, in people’s ability to change and in sport’s role in facilitating and furthering such change, you believe in Martindale and his right to turn his life around.

If you don’t believe in any of this, then that’s a shame and we had better build some bigger prisons. Martindale deserves to work. He has earned a new life and deserves to continue — in his own unflashy, quiet way — to demonstrate that a spell in prison does not necessarily have to signal the end of one’s prospects.

And while the SFA take time to consider all of this, they may wish to consider one other potentially thorny fact. That being that they will have a convicted violent criminal playing for them at this summer’s European Championship. 

Declan Gallagher, a central defender playing for Motherwell and Scotland, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2015 for hitting a wedding guest over the head with a baseball bat. 

Martindale demonstrates a spell in prison does not have to signal the end of one’s prospects

Now 29, Gallagher is said to be a reformed enough character to be captain of his club and a good enough player to currently be linked with a move to Celtic.

Those who know and play with Gallagher speak highly of him. Nevertheless, the assault left his victim with a fractured skull and the matter feels relevant now as the men in suits sit with Martindale’s career prospects in their hands.

If Gallagher has remained free to rebuild his life and career then why not Martindale?

The only distinction to be made between the two is that one is a player, the other a manager. I suppose there is an argument to be constructed that Martindale wishes to be a leader, a figurehead, and therefore his appointment should be scrutinised rather more closely. 

It would be archaic, unjust and deeply hypocritical if the SFA turn their backs on Martindale

But if it is an argument, it’s a pretty weak one.

Yes, Martindale does stand as an example to players who work for him, but in an altogether positive way. Now 46, he has never sought to downplay what he did.

‘I will never sugar-coat it,’ he told the Guardian last year. ‘People will have reservations about me and that’s totally acceptable. All I ask is they judge me on the person I am today.’

If the SFA turn their backs on Martindale, it would be archaic and very unjust. Given Gallagher’s presence in their national team, it would also be deeply hypocritical.

Tottenham disquiet over Dele Alli  

There is disquiet inside Tottenham about Jose Mourinho’s disinclination to pick Dele Alli. 

Mourinho appears intent on building his team around pragmatic principles. 

Who would ever have thought that? 

There is some disquiet inside Tottenham about Jose Mourinho’s disinclination to pick Dele Alli

Offside flag delay is plain dangerous

Ashley Barnes had a very good night for Burnley against Liverpool, but it was not perfect.

A number of times, for example, he strayed offside. On one such occasion, he mistimed his run badly enough to expect a flag.

But, of course, it didn’t come straight away so he played on rather half-heartedly until it did. 

Ashley Barnes had enjoyed himself against Liverpool but the new offside rule caused problems

And this is where football is now in dangerous territory.

Players are always more likely to be injured when not fully committed to a tackle or movement. When the mind and body disconnect, vulnerabilities emerge. So how long before someone gets hurt during a phoney passage of play waiting for an offside flag?

The new directive for assistant referees to wait until a move is finished is not just pointless, it’s dangerous too.

It should be reversed immediately.

Klopp’s fringe forwards are the concern

Jurgen Klopp is right not to make a fuss about being denied a new central defender by Liverpool. During a pandemic, new rules apply.

Anyway, it’s not just the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez that has hurt the Premier League champions recently. 

Liverpool’s recruitment has been very good in the Klopp years. Andy Robertson, for example, cost just £8million. 

Jurgen Klopp’s fringe forwards are not contributing enough with Liverpool struggling this year

But not every purchase has come off. Watching Liverpool struggle, it has struck me that Klopp really needs a tune out of someone like Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Takumi Minamino.

Klopp has explored every last inch of his squad trying to solve his defensive problems. But he has faced challenges in fixing issues in his creative areas, too.

Those three players cost north of £90m between them.

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