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Scottish football’s ultimate redemption story

Just ten years since David Martindale left Scotland’s criminal justice system a reformed man, he has worked his way up to the upper echelons of Scottish Football, with the prospects of European football and cup finals a reality.

Just 20 minutes down the M8, Livingston’s “Tony Macaroni Arena” has borne witness to a story worthy of the silver screen. In fact, this story should not be confined to a singular film, but rather a two-part series. One, an action-thriller detailing Martindale’s involvement in Scotland’s grimy criminal underbelly, more specifically its cocaine trade, and a sequel where we follow his redemption, assisted by football.

With the November resignation of Gary Holt, few knew Martindale and even fewer could have predicted the success he has brought to Livingston. Martindale’s journey to a top-flight managerial position is unorthodox to say the least.

Unlike many of his peers, Martindale lacks any professional playing experience, the height of his own senior playing career spent in Scotland’s junior leagues at Linlithgow Rose and West Calder United.

Despite this and his criminal conviction, Martindale was able to assume a role at Livingston as a volunteer coach while the club was languishing in the lower levels of the professional pyramid.

Martindale was able to work himself up to the upper reaches of the club, acting as Director of Football prior to his managerial career. Martindale is not unqualified – without the intervention of Covid-19 he would have completed his UEFA A Licence this summer.

Controversially, Martindale was barred from obtaining his coaching licenses in Scotland and was forced to begin the endeavour in Northern Ireland with the Irish FA.

If Martindale’s personal rehabilitation wasn’t already an impressive feat, he has taken to the fiendishly difficult world of football management like a duck to water. Martindale, to the surprise of all but perhaps himself, is yet to lose as boss, with the tally currently standing at twelve games unbeaten. This becomes even more impressive when considering that Livingston have navigated two encounters with reigning champions Celtic and a Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden Park during this extraordinary run.

Livingston is not blessed with a significant war chest or a blossoming class of young stars, but Martindale is working with a group of seasoned professionals who seem to be willing to run through a wall for him.

Many have stood out in this magical run, but none more so than impromptu striker Scott Robinson. A midfielder by trade, Robinson has picked up four goals and an assist in the past seven games, but most impressive has been his relentless spearheading of both Livingston’s attack and pressing game.

Something of an albatross has weighed down on Martindale throughout these first eleven games, as he was yet to face an SFA panel who would decide whether he was fit and proper to head an SPFL club.

A mass of supporters from across Scottish football fought Martindale’s corner, with even the MSP for Livingston Angela Constance coming out to support his cause. On 26 January, the panel sided in favour of Martindale, allowing him to continue to be present on the touchline.

A victory not just for Martindale and Livingston but for Scotland as a whole, where we should be encouraged by the fact that the potential for effective rehabilitation of criminals has been recognised.

With Livingston sitting in fifth at the time of writing and a cup final awaiting them in February, public interest in Livingston has reached unprecedented levels. Football observers will continue to watch eagerly, to see if this remarkable run can continue and whether Livingston can secure what would be only the second piece of silverware in the club’s history when they take on St Johnstone at Hampden Park.

Image: Wikimedia Commons