LIVINGSTON MANAGER Gary Holt insists Alan Lithgow must focus on a pain-free retirement as much as prolonging his career after being told he needs hip surgery that will keep him out of action for up to six months.
The news is the latest and most severe of blows in a nightmare campaign for the 31-year-old Lions stalwart.
The former Hearts, Clyde and Airdrie defender has started just nine league games because of a series of problems, including a hamstring injury, an appendix operation and a chest infection.
The hip surgery is the latest frustrating setback for the Almondvale captain but Holt is desperate to ensure the stopper takes a long-term view of his recovery.
Holt said: “Al has a serious hip injury. We’ve been investigating it and going through the proper procedures with the specialist to find out exactly what the cause is and how we go about treating it.
“It has come down to surgery, which is unfortunate for the big man.
“We’ll give him all the due care and attention, all the time to recover he needs and get him out there as quickly as humanly possible.
“But, with the type of injury it is, and knowing it’ll be a longer-term thing after the operation, we need to explore it properly. It’s not about having a look and saying ‘bang, get this done’.
“We’ve spoken to a lot of people, got the right advice and, although Al is probably thinking ‘just get the op done’, it’s not as easy as that.”
Holt insists he knows from his own experience the toll the beautiful game can take on players’ bodies and is eager not to rush Lithgow back into action.
He added: “At his age, with the timescale he is looking at, we needed to do it properly, for his sake. You are a long time retired and he needs to think of the years after playing, rather than just the here and now.
“I’m an old man and I’m hurting left, right and centre. We want to prolong careers as long as possible but we also have a responsibility to provide due care looking at their later years.
“It’s about doing things right, knowing that it’s done, won’t reoccur and then we can look at the process of getting him back on the pitch.
“Gone are the days when you would have an op and you’d be done by 32, 33. You can play a lot longer now and, with strength and conditioning the way it is, we have the best practices in place.”