BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
DAVID HOPKIN is adamant he spent his entire playing career defying expectations and proving critics wrong – and the Livingston boss reckons he has done it again after guiding the Lions back to the Championship.
The 46-year-old secured the League 1 title on Saturday after defeating nearest rivals Alloa 2-1, and a memorable week was capped yesterday when he was named Ladbrokes manager of the month for March.
Hopkin admits the success is even sweeter after last season’s galling relegation, which prompted some onlookers to question whether he could make the step up from coach to manager.
However, he insists that is nothing new for him, given he made the unlikely journey from a raw youngster with Morton to a English Premier League star with Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leeds and a Scotland internationalist.
“It was a challenge here at the start,” he acknowledged. “Getting relegated, you had people saying ‘maybe you are only a coach and not cut out to be a manager’.
“But I had great belief in my own ability, and anyone who has watched us has seen a team that’s been entertaining, fit, organised.
“You want to prove people wrong. I believe I’ve done that throughout my whole career as a player and I’m no different as a coach. I started my own career in the lower leagues and went on to play at the highest level.
“And when you get into management, players aren’t daft. If you can’t do the job, then players will soon suss you out.
“All the players have improved greatly this season and they have given me everything. That is the biggest thing you need to have; players want to learn, want to be coached and get stronger.
“Most of these boys are still at the gym at half-three and that is great credit to them and great credit to my staff.”
“I think the experience of this season has probably been a positive in some ways,” Hopkin added.
“After struggling for several years in the Championship, we have gone down and been able to rebuild and, although it will be a tough challenge, next season we’ll be back to where we want to be.”