RAFA DE VITA has come to expect the unexpected in a career that has seen him taste the lows of administration and the highs of working under boyhood hero Paolo Di Canio.
But the Italian striker insists he is not surprised by Livingston’s place in the Betfred Cup quarter-finals, where they have been drawn away to Hibs.
The 29-year-old catapulted the Lions into the last-eight with his dramatic extra-time winner in Tuesday night’s 2-1 triumph over Falkirk.
It was another impressive result for the League One champions, who defeated St Mirren in the group stages and earned a penalty-kicks bonus point after drawing with Partick Thistle, and opened their Championship campaign with a draw with Dunfermline on Saturday.
De Vita, who joined the West Lothian outfit for a second time last year, was thrilled to give the club something to celebrate after experiencing the dark days of administration in 2009.
And he is convinced manager David Hopkin and the club’s new owners have things on an upward trajectory after promotion back to the second-tier in the summer.
He said: “It’s going well at the moment. The club’s definitely stable again, which it wasn’t in my first spell.
“The things I saw the first time are hard to describe. I saw people losing their jobs and the club being half an hour away from not existing any more.
“It’s definitely a different story now. The club is heading in the right direction.
“I think the people of the town deserve it, because Livingston is a good club and it could be an even better club, and hopefully that’s the direction it’s heading.
“We deserve to be in this position and we’ll just have to go out there and express ourselves again.”
De Vita was at Ross County when the Staggies won the League Cup last year and would love to return to Hampden with Livingston.
But he admits it will take a lot to compete with his two-year spell with Swindon Town, where he moved after leaving Livi in 2011.
He added: “I played for Di Canio down at Swindon. That was unbelievable, because he was my childhood hero. My room was full of posters of him when I was a little kid.
“For political reasons, he’s a controversial figure back home but as a footballer he was my hero.
“He was born where I’m from, a bad area outside of Rome, and when he became my manager it was just surreal.
“Even after a year, he was doing his team-talk and I was sitting there asking myself if it was really happening.
“It’s something that always stays with you and on top of that we won the league [League Two in 2012], played at Wembley [in the Football League Trophy final] and it’s probably the best spell I’ve had.
“I don’t think people know how good a coach he is. Even though he’s mental, and that’s fair to say, as a coach he taught me a lot and I feel privileged to have worked under him.”