GARY MALEY has revealed he has a new fan club in Turkey after Livingston’s Twitter poll to ‘decide his future’ went viral.
The Lions’ third-choice goalkeeper also lifted the lid on offers of legal support from concerned punters who thought the Premiership outfit were genuinely deciding whether to offer him a new deal based on a public vote.
The truth is the stunt was dreamed up by Livi assistant manager David Martindale as a way to raise money for the John O’Byrne Foundation, a charity which supports seriously ill children.
With 194,544 votes cast by the time the poll closed at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Martindale quickly reneged on his initial plan to offer a pound for every ballot. Instead, Maley will donate two months’ wages and the Livingston number two will match it.
Maley explained: “Davie [Martindale] mentioned the prospect of a new contract. I said ‘listen, I’m 37, just focus on keeping the kids on, don’t worry about me’. We left it at that.
“Then Davie suggested we have a little bit of fun with it. He said ‘let’s put it to a Twitter vote for our supporters’. He offered to put a pound per vote in.
“The players were joining in – Marvin Bartley, Nicky Devlin, Jon Guthrie – and then Davie phoned me that night and said ‘have you seen how many votes are in this? There’s no way I’m putting in a pound per vote!’
“Instead, I’m going to donate two months’ wages and Davie will match what I put in for charity. But I would loved to have seen his face if we held him to £200,000! It would be revenge for all the stuff he’s done to me over the years.”
Not everyone got the gag, however.
The Livingston Twitter account received numerous replies from outraged users, with several suggesting players’ union PFA Scotland should get involved as the interest escalated.
Maley says that was the tip of the iceberg for a tale which garnered interest from Sky Sports, talkSPORT, ESPN, Reuters and Fox Sports in Holland. As well as his new fans in Turkey.
He laughed: “It’s been ridiculous, I’ve had direct messages on Twitter asking if I need legal advice!
“I think most people took it how it was intended. We didn’t want to cause any offence because we know the prospect of players being released is a serious thing, but it was a light-hearted joke that I was very much in on.
“I’ve got a Turkish fan club now! I can’t understand a word of it – but it’s a fan club nonetheless. It’s gone to an unbelievable scale.”
In a clear vote of confidence, 70.4 per cent of voters wanted Maley to be handed a new deal and one of the strangest stories of the Scottish football shutdown had happy ending when he swiftly put pen to paper on a new one-year deal.
He added: “I’m third-choice keeper and it costs a lot of money to bring someone in to do that job – whereas I don’t cost much. The arrangement has worked for four years now and it helps the budget to be used elsewhere.”