He may be an unknown quantity when it comes to first-team football but Kieran Gibbons is hoping to put some bite into the heart of the Livingston midfield this season.
The Lions travel across the Forth tomorrow for their Championship curtain-raiser against Ray McKinnon’s new-look Raith Rovers at Stark’s park – a venue they convincingly won twice at last season.
However, Mark Burchill’s side will bear little resemblance to that which racked up 5-1 and 4-0 victories in those prosperous trips to Fife.
One player, though, who is certain to be named in tomorrow’s starting XI is Gibbons, the former Aberdeen Under-20 captain having been a standout in Livi’s Petrofac Training and League cup victories over Barry Ferguson’s Clyde recently.
The 20-year-old agreed a two-year deal with the Almondvale outfit in June having been released from the Dons at the end of last season, making just one first-team appearance when he came on as a second-half substitute for Cammy Smith in Aberdeen’s 1-0 victory over Partick Thistle last November.
Nevertheless, the youngster did guide the Dons Under-20 side to league glory, pipping Celtic to the title and winning 25 of their 32 league matches.
But Gibbons is now entering a new chapter of his football career and is relishing the chance of first-team football under Burchill’s stewardship.
“I played a lot of youth games and was involved with the first team last year so it was my best season I had at Aberdeen in my four years there where we won the league [Under-20] for the first time in over 30 years,” Gibbons told the Evening News.
“I perhaps didn’t play as many first-team games as I had hoped but I was playing regular football with the development side and learned a lot.
“I never left on bad terms. It was a great place to be around last season but that comes with winning games. My contract had come to an end so Derek McInnes was honest with me and said he didn’t see me being involved that much this season and knowing the player that I am, it was better that I moved on.
“I was in complete agreement with him and was happy to go. I want to be playing games so I’d rather be at a team where I am involved than being up there sitting about.
“Since I’ve been in at Livingston, Mark Burchill and [assistant manager] Davie Hopkin have been brilliant with me.”
Given Livingston’s plight on and off the field last season, the Lions are again being tipped as one of the favourites for the drop – a tag, Gibbons believes, that is wholly unwarranted. “I think we’ve got a really good squad,” he said. “We’ve got a good mixture of youth and experience so hopefully we can start off with a win against Raith tomorrow as that will give us the confidence ahead of the matches coming up.
“We just need to concentrate on our ourselves because we know we’ve got the quality within the squad that can hurt anyone. We don’t really pay much attention to what’s been said. If people think we’re going to struggle again then they’re entitled to their opinions.
“We’ve gelled pretty quickly for it being such a new group of players and there are no egos in the dressing room, which always helps. I certainly think we can do well this season.”