David Hopkin has only been Livingston’s assistant manager for three weeks, but already he has seen enough to convince him he isn’t about to endure the heartache of relegation for a second consecutive season.
The former Scotland internationalist was part of Kenny Shiels’ coaching staff at Morton as the Cappielow side dropped out of the Championship just nine months ago.
The fact Livingston were propping up the Championship didn’t make Hopkin think twice about coming to West Lothian when he was invited to become No.2 to close friend Mark Burchill last month.
The Lions remain three points adrift at the foot of the table, but Hopkin is confident there is too much quality in the squad for more relegation woe to come his way this season.
Recalling last season’s demotion in Greenock, Hopkin said: “At Morton, with the manager [Shiels] coming in last January, he tried to change too much and brought in too many players and, ultimately, it backfired. The good thing we have at Livi is all the players have been here for a while and we’re all pulling in the one direction, so I think that’s the main difference I’ve noticed.
“I feel as if I’m at a club now that everybody wants to stay up, where the place isn’t flat despite our position, and everybody is happy and enjoying coming to work.
“I’ve known Mark a long time and I’ve got a bit of an input in the team, about what’s going to happen.
“It’s a lot easier for me as when Kenny came in last year at Morton, he didn’t really know me so it was difficult. But Mark and I get on great and hopefully we can keep the club up.
“When Mark phoned and asked, I was delighted to come up. I’ve only been here a few weeks but I’m really enjoying it.”
Hopkin certainly proved to be something of a lucky charm for Burchill as his first game alongside the former Celtic striker in the dugout was the 5-1 win at Dumbarton. A midweek draw with relegation rivals Alloa, as well as last weekend’s narrow defeat by league leaders Hearts, have since followed their impressive display at the Bet Butler Stadium.
Tomorrow’s rematch with Hearts at Tynecastle may not appear the most favourable on paper for a Lions side who have won only four league games all season, but Hopkin is adamant that they will venture to Gorgie believing they can return with all three points.
“Anybody who has watched us over the last three or four weeks will have seen an improvement,” he stressed. “There are quality players here and they’re maybe starting to get some new ideas from both Mark and myself.
“We always knew Hearts would come out and attack us last Saturday and it would be an open game. We got our tactics spot on but it was the couple of mistakes that punished us.
“Hearts are going to win the league so it’s just a matter of when and how many wins they can get as quickly as they can. It’s about turning that pressure into a goal and I think that’s the difference Hearts have.
“It doesn’t matter where we go, we’ve got to show the same levels of fitness and work-rate.
“Obviously going to Tynecastle tomorrow will be a great occasion but we’ll play a similar way to how we played last weekend. We’ve got 13 cup finals that will hopefully keep us in the division.
“We’re still looking to strengthen and will maybe explore that avenue, but we’ve got enough in our squad at the moment and they’re responding well.”