GARY HOLT claims he cast his eye over a hundred trialists in a bid to find a successor to Lyndon Dykes – and he is adamant Jay Emmanuel-Thomas will be worth the wait.
The Lions boss has made no secret of his open-door policy when it comes to allowing free agents to train with Livi, with the likes of Jack Fitzwater, Lars Lokotsch and Jason Holt all earning their deals the hard way this season.
And he is full of praise for ex-Arsenal wonderkid Emmanuel-Thomas for being humble enough to follow suit, despite his fine pedigree with the likes of Bristol City, Cardiff and QPR.
It paid off for the 29-year-old this week as he penned a one-year contract with the option of a further season, claiming the number nine jersey vacated by Dykes and, very briefly, Anthony Stokes.
Holt said: “People want to come in and showcase themselves and try and show they are good enough. I’ve had about 100 players through the door who haven’t earned a deal – so that’s testament to Jay.
“He’s put himself above the parapet to get shot down and he wants to prove he can do it at this level. He has a lot of qualities, a good pedigree and he’ll add a [physical] dimension to us that we have been missing in recent weeks.
“He certainly stood out when he trained. Every drill we did, he embraced it straight away and you can tell he has game-intelligence.
“Jay is also at an age where his experience is going to help wee Tiff [Scott Tiffoney], Lars [Lokotsch] and Matej [Poplatnik]. So we’re hoping he’ll come in and embrace what we’re all about.
“He’s earned this contract – we didn’t just give him it.”
Emmanuel-Thomas has not played a competitive match since turning out for Thai side PTT Rayong in July 2019 and, while Holt accepts a ‘kid gloves’ approach will be needed to getting him up to speed, he revealed that ‘JET’ could be involved in some form against Dundee United this evening.
And Holt has confirmed that the towering front-man may not be the last new face through the door at the Tony Macaroni Arena prior to the transfer window closing on Monday.
Livi have already snapped up 12 new faces this term – albeit Stokes and striker Salim Kouider-Aissa have already departed, the latter on loan to Partick Thistle – but Holt confessed that they are still ‘active’.
He continued: “We’re getting there in terms of the squad. They’re all hungry and keen to play, that’s the good thing. But we’re still looking, we’re still active; still trying to get things done.
“That’s part and parcel of football – you’re always trying to add to the group and always looking to maybe move some people on. It’s all part of the business.
“However, if it doesn’t happen then I am happy with what I have got and the players need to know that.”
Holt, meanwhile, admits that his charges are in buoyant mood heading to Tayside after defeating St Johnstone last weekend, insisting they finally received the rewards for their hard work.
It was only Livi’s second league win of the campaign and hauled them off the foot of the table. Indeed, they now sit in eighth spot, underlining how tight things are at the foot of the Premiership.
Holt added: “I think the mood has improved because they got their rewards against St Johnstone.
“We’ve tried to keep the spirits high, keep the same messages and same patterns – but just work harder. If you work harder than your opposite number you’ll get luckier than them.
“And I think that’s what happened last weekend.
“You can’t tell me we played any better or worse against Celtic, Aberdeen or Hamilton – the performance was the same, but they got their rewards. That’s another rung on the ladder of where they are trying to get to.”