We are speaking to you today because of Gary Bollan’s departure as manager of the football club, a decision which might come as a shock to a lot of our supporters.
If the truth be told, it shouldn’t really have been a surprise to Gary himself. The board have voiced concerns on a number of occasions as to the direction we were heading in terms of first team matters.
Gary was appointed at the same time that the new owners took control of the football club. When we first discussed the potential for coming into the football club we considered the question of what the vision for the club was.
The whole project was centred on the importance of youth development, with players progressing through the ranks and into the first team, where we could produce as many of our own first team players as possible.
The aim has always been for us to be able to sell some of these players on and in turn fund the activities of the football club to start the process again.
Gary was appointed on that basis. He came with Brian Welsh and the new board as part of that package.
Admittedly, through no-one’s fault – least of all Gary’s – we found ourselves playing in the Third Division, and we took the view that given we had contracts to honour, we would support Gary in other ways in tandem with the progression of some of our youth players.
Yet as time has gone on, it has become more and more apparent that Gary does not share the beliefs we hold.
We have met with Gary on several occasions to voice our concerns that our own young players were being overlooked even for consideration in the first team. Indeed, we were bringing other players to the football club on a regular basis instead.
Still, we supported Gary as long as we felt we possibly could continue to do so, to the point where we felt uncomfortable at bringing new players in, both in terms of finance and professionally. At that point, we advised Gary that we needed him to concentrate on the development of our young players.
Given where Gary lives geographically he was often unable to attend youth games. In that light, Gary couldn’t be expected to form a substantial opinion on many of the young players at the club. In our eyes, that meant Gary had to consider heavily the view of those working with our young players in terms of recommendations to be considered for first team selection and everyone had to be working from the same page in conditioning players for the step up to first team level.
In our opinion, there was reluctance from Gary to embrace this ethos: where the staff at the club work towards preparing players for first team action.
When we talk about the long-standing vision for this football club, as alluded to in our statement last Sunday regarding Gary’s departure, this is what we mean.
Our aim was always to re-establish the youth setup at the club – and that has been achieved – in order to prepare these young boys throughout their development to the point, if they are good enough, that they are considered for inclusion in the first team squad.
Far too often that has simply not happened, and when we hear of youngsters considering not staying on at Livingston as they don’t feel they would be given a chance that sends alarm bells to the board.
We must work towards a situation where football at all levels at the club is shaped in such a way that we are working towards the same goals.
Our Under 19s and Under 17s are winning leagues and have done so for several seasons, and are featuring in the latter stages of national cup competitions, playing and beating often SPL opposition, while the sides below are competing well.
Subsequently, the fact that cohesion from youth level through to our first team has not been as strong as it could have been has been very disappointing.
Let us be clear – Gary Bollan has been a very successful manager for this football club in several ways and that should not be taken away from him.
However, we feel we gave him all the tools and more to get the job done while embracing youth talent in the manner the board of directors want. We simply do not think Gary was doing that often enough for us.
It should go without saying that we have no desire whatsoever to dictate to our manager who plays in the starting eleven. However, if we are at the point where the Head of Youth Development is suggesting a certain player is good enough to be under consideration for the first team, we expect our manager to work with the staff to consider the player in such a light and make his own judgment based on evidence. Far too often that has not happened.
Additionally, young players should be considered only when, and if, they are ready. We are not suggesting 11 players under the age of 18 walk into the first team.
While we know we have a good blend of players at the club, Gary wanted us again in January to bring new personnel in, in front of young, talented players already here. Whilst we couldn’t support such a move financially, we simply didn’t want to do so either.
We feel we have players in the stand week after week who are not being considered and not being given a fair chance to prove themselves for first team selection.
That is all we ask.
We have maybe been a little short in getting the correct message across to our players in this case and that is something we will review. Once we spoke to the players this week and explained what we were doing and why there was more understanding of why we took the decision we did.
Today, Brian Welsh takes the side for today’s match against Partick Thistle after conducting training this week, before taking up his new job in America next week. We would like to wish Brian and his family good luck and best wishes as they set up their new life abroad.
The board are going through applications to be our new manager at this time. There has been enormous interest in the job so far, and the appointment will hopefully be made in the coming week after the board has met to consider the applicants.
Be assured that the successful candidate will know exactly what the remit is in relation to moving this club forward, and will be expected to be heavily involved with the Youth Development System here at the club to create a synergy between the youth sides and our first team squad.
Finally, we would like to thank you for your continued and loyal support of the football club.
Board of Directors