Former Livingston manager Allan Preston insists the latest turmoil to engulf the Championship club won’t derail their bid to win the Petrofac Training Cup on Sunday.
On Wednesday, the Lions were hit with their second registration embargo of the season and a £5000 fine after a tribunal found majority shareholder Neil Rankine guilty of breaking SFA rules by also holding an interest in League Two outfit East Fife.
Preston was on the coaching staff at Almondvale when, despite suffering the torment of the club’s first plunge into administration in February 2004, Livi defied the odds to win the CIS Cup at Hampden beating Hibs just a month later.
Livi’s current crop have not been without their troubles already this season. In November they were sanctioned with a £10,000 fine and a five-point deduction for defaulting on tax payments – a punishment that is threatening to consign the club to League One football next term.
Nonetheless, Preston is adamant that facing such adversity can, in his experience, bring the best out of those players given a starting jersey.
Recalling that glorious day at the national stadium, the former Dundee United and St Johnstone defender said: “It wasn’t our doing [going into administration], it wasn’t any of our faults so we could only focus on what went on out on the park.
“What we could influence was the team on the day and that’s what we managed to do.
“Due to administration we had lost about 12 players, Francisco Quino for example – who was the very first player to score a goal for the club in the Premier League – so things like that meant we wanted to make sure we won the cup for the lads who lost their jobs and it wasn’t just for the players but the rest of the staff at Livingston.
“There were a lot of people who lost their jobs unfortunately. We made sure we drummed it into the players on a daily basis that we’ve got to do it for this group of people.
“It was fantastic. Hibs had over 40,000 that day but we had a good record against them that year when Bobby Williamson was their manager and they hadn’t beaten us. Everyone felt they were the favourites but we felt we had a better 11 than Hibs and that proved to be the case on the day.”
Despite going on to manage the club in his own right three months after the League Cup success, Preston was relieved of his duties towards the end of the year.
However, he says that feeling of sheer jubilation and the magnitude of what the players managed to achieve is still difficult to comprehend given the circumstances.
“The open-deck bus was special, freezing cold I must admit, but it was a wonderful occasion for everyone involved at the club,” he said. “It proved to be one night that we could put everything to the back of our minds and go and celebrate what a fantastic achievement it was to win a major trophy for a club the size of Livingston. Will it ever be repeated again? I very much doubt it to be honest.
“It’s been very difficult for the club this season. They’ve been dogged by points deduction, registration bans and regardless of what anyone says, it does affect the players. I just hope they can put that to one side on Sunday and go and put in a performance.
“Mark [Burchill] is a good young manager and he has to believe he can keep them up. He’s got good players, a lot of good young players at that. They just haven’t got the rub of the green this season in a lot of games but I sincerely hope they can get out of this predicament they are in.
“A cup final gives everyone a boost. Livingston will go there wanting to win it and by doing so could certainly give them a springboard for the remaining games to try and claw back Alloa or Cowdenbeath.”
Preston is delighted to see his former side in a position to contest a national cup final again, their first since that momentous occasion against Hibs. And although he enjoys a close affiliation with the man in charge of stopping Livi leaving Perth with silverware this weekend, Preston is hoping to be in a position to toast a Lions victory come Sunday evening.
“I’ve got divided loyalty because Paddy Connolly, who is the manager of Alloa, was a room-mate of mine at Dundee United and I also played alongside him at St Johnstone. “But I spent many happy years at Livingston where it gave me one of my happiest days when we won the League Cup so I would go for them just to edge it in a tight one,” he added.