The honeymoon period is over for Livingston’s new management team of John Hughes and John Collins, but Lions defender Craig Barr is optimistic the pair will continue to build on the positive work of recently-departed duo Gary Bollan and Scott Paterson.
After a winning start under the new regime, Livi have now lost their last three games, but Barr says new manager Hughes and recently-appointed Director of Football Collins have the benefit of the work achieved by Bollan as the West Lothian side aim for a strong finish to their First Division campaign.
“When they came in, Gary Bollan had left a good foundation for them,” said Edinburgh-born defender Barr, who turns 25 later this month. “Those two have just carried on from that. Training’s been good, everything’s been good. We’ve been positive in our play, playing the way we want to play keeping the ball moving and starting from the back. We’ve felt good among ourselves.”
The new arrivals seem to have captured the imagination of black and gold fans, with recent attendances of around 2000.
However, Livi lost 2-1 at home to Ayr on Tuesday night, their third loss on the bounce, which followed a 3-2 home defeat to Dundee after a last-minute goal at the weekend.
Bollan’s controversial sacking came amid criticism from the Livingston board that he had failed to promote the club’s young players at a sufficient rate. With the preferred direction of the club having been announced publicly by its directors, does there now exist an added pressure on the older heads in the team, such as Iain Russell and captain Liam Fox, to prove their worth in the face of talented youngsters?
“I couldn’t speak on everybody’s behalf but I think in football you need that mix,” said Barr. “It would be difficult to play a whole team of young boys. There is no doubt that the young boys in the team are good enough, but I think you need that experience to get them through it.
“The board have their wishes, and we have just got to stand by them and, if that means someone missing out for whatever reason, you just have to accept it. That’s just the way football is.
“We have young boys in Stefan Scougall and Sparky [Marc McNulty], and Doc [Ross Docherty] has come in the last few weeks and has done brilliantly. A lot of them have done a great job and are assets to the team. That’s the way [the board] are looking to do it, and long may it continue as long as the likes of them are coming through.
“Foxy’s been in the game a long time and played at a high level. Young people like Scougs and Sparky have to listen to Beanie [Ian Russell] and Foxy, because they know how it is, they know how the game works. You have to have that blend, it will only help the young boys.
“I think we are all optimistic. [Hughes and Collins] both have years of experience in the game, and we’d be stupid not to listen and to believe what they’re telling us. That can only benefit us, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“Everyone knew we got on well with Gary and we all played for him. He did a decent job and we enjoyed working for him. The new management has come in with Gary and Scott’s foundations and have kicked on from that and worked on it. In the first few weeks, we were buzzing from adrenaline and you could tell that we wanted to impress the new staff.
“We just have to keep kicking on, playing the way they want us to play. The two of them obviously have years of experience, and we’d be stupid to not listen to what they’re saying to us.
“It’s not better or worse – I think every manager has different drills. [They have] the same principles, just different methods of doing it. When new management come in, all the boys want to impress them, so the tempo’s extremely high and we aim to keep that up and to keep it going.”