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Livingston face final curtain

Almondvale has witnessed its fair share of drama

By Thomas McGuigan

Livingston are used to upheaval, with managerial changes at Almondvale as common a sight as empty yellow seats.

Since moving to West Lothian in 1995 and being renamed Livingston, the club has had 14 managers in as many years, including two spells under Jim Leishman.

Unfortunately for the frazzled Livi supporters, the fireworks have tended to take place off the pitch.

With the exception of the now defunct Gretna, Livingston have been the longest-running soap opera in Scottish football.

From the highs of promotion to the Scottish Premier League, to the depression of relegation and the dismantling of a talented squad in the face of a brutal financial reality, there has rarely been a dull moment.

The club was founded as Ferranti Thistle in 1943 and was admitted to the Scottish Football League in 1974 under the new name of Meadowbank Thistle.

But it was after moving to West Lothian from Edinburgh and undergoing a rebrand that it began to make its presence felt in the Scottish game.

Livingston chairman Angelo Massone
Angelo Massone has been unable to breathe new life into Livingston

Chairman Dominic Keane bought the club in 1998; saving it from bankruptcy and providing the financial muscle and vision to propel Livingston forward.

Promotion was secured to the SPL in 2001 in Leishman's second spell as manager and Livingston finished third in the table behind the Old Firm to secure European football.

Sturm Graz proved too strong for Livingston in the Uefa Cup, but the club had been given a taste for the big time.

Victory followed in the 2003/4 League Cup final over Hibernian at Hampden, but disaster was on the horizon and the club went into administration in February 2004.

They were relegated two years later when John Robertson, who had replaced Paul Lambert, could not save them from the drop.

Pearse Flynn then took over and a troubled period saw him involved in a lengthy dispute as he sought money he loaned to the club.

An Italian consortium bought Flynn's shares in the club last June for an undisclosed fee.

Leishman, Ray Stewart, Marcio Maximo Barcellos, Richard Gough, Davie Hay and Roberto Landi are to name but a few who have braved the managerial hotseat at Livingston.

Some lasted longer than others, as Livingston appeared determined to follow Real Madrid's example of regularly putting bosses through the revolving door.

Livingston chairman Angelo Massone took control of the club in June last year and boldly predicted they could become the third force in Scottish football if the local council sold him Almondvale Stadium.

However, his tenure at the club has been turbulent to say the least.

Livingston supporters outside Almondvale
Disgruntled Livingston supporters have had little to cheer

Players regularly complained of not receiving their wages on time, but the club hierarchy insisted they did not have financial problems.

But, earlier this month, after stating he had ploughed £2m of his own money into the First Division club, Massone refused to pay an electricity bill and the power was cut off at Almondvale.

He told BBC Scotland that his fund-raising appeal to supporters six weeks previously only generated £149.50.

"It was our decision to show the people what happens if I don't put in my own money," he warned.

"If Angelo Massone doesn't put in the money, the lights are off; this is the message."

Massone's initial optimism has been replaced by fractious in-fighting with the Livingston Trust and the club's problems intensified with news that it owed the council £280,000 in stadium rent arrears - or face eviction.

The Trust has described Massone's year at the helm as "a catalogue of disasters" and predicted the beginning of the end.

Last weekend, Massone extended the olive branch to the Trust and appealed to potential investors to come forward and save the club.

But, with Tuesday's deadline to pay the rent arrears now past and legal proceedings against the club under way, it may prove one challenge too many.

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see also
Livi investment plea from Massone
28 Jun 09 |  Livingston
McDougall outlines plan for Livi
26 Jun 09 |  Livingston
Livi lurch closer to bankruptcy
25 Jun 09 |  Livingston
Livingston meet council payment
22 Jun 09 |  Livingston
Hay critical of Livi leadership
20 Jun 09 |  Livingston
Massone explains power cut stance
18 Jun 09 |  Livingston
Massone not looking to sell Livi
05 Jun 09 |  Livingston

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