DAVID MARTINDALE has lauded the Scottish FA for sending ‘a powerful message’ by deeming the Livingston manager a fit and proper person to continue in his role.
Martindale has been candid regarding his criminal past since replacing Gary Holt on an interim basis in November, having been jailed for six-and-a-half years in 2006 after pleading guilty to drug dealing and money laundering charges.
A hearing was conducted over Zoom on Tuesday morning to decide whether his prior convictions should preclude him from being added to Livi’s ‘Official Return’ of staff which must be completed each season.
The 46-year-old approached his D-Day with the support of politicians, academics and fellow managers and the panel took just 40 minutes to decide in his favour, prompting an emotional Martindale to thank those who have backed him.
“The Scottish FA sent a powerful message that it is open to all members of society and all walks of life,” said Martindale. “The support has been humbling.
“The amount of people who have offered their support has been incredible; people starting petitions, Hannah Bardell [SNP MP for Livingston], Angela Constance [the Minister for Drugs Policy], Prof. Phil Scraton [academic and member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel].
“People like that put their head above the parapet when – let’s be honest – they don’t need to. The could have liked a tweet on social media, but they’ve gone above and beyond that.
“And football fans from all clubs in Britain have shown their support and it’s been unbelievable.”
Should the verdict have gone against Martindale, it would have sent a quite different message: regardless of how much a person seeks to better themselves, pursue further education and produce exemplary work, they will never get past the worst thing they ever did.
Instead, he is increasingly a fine case study of rehabilitation in action.
“Everyone knows someone who has been in trouble, prison or charged by the police,” continued Martindale. “Not everyone who goes to prison is a bad person.
“Obviously, there are bad people in prison but if you make a terrible mistake then it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad person. I met a lot of good people in prison who made one bad mistake in their life.”
Martindale is effusive in his praise for Livingston, insisting his life would look very different if the West Lothian outfit had approached his offer to coach for free during the John McGlynn era with suspicious minds rather than open ones.
“Livingston Football Club, the past and present directors and owners, have to take massive credit for what they’ve done,” he continued. “Let’s not lie – I got my foot in the door because they weren’t in a good place financially and I was cheap labour!
“They’ve allowed me to grow and evolve in the job and I wouldn’t be sitting here without that support.”
It would be fair to say, the Scottish FA have not always been quite so welcoming.
Martindale’s ample coaching qualifications – he is one step away from securing his Uefa ‘A’ License – were completed on an Irish Football Association course after he was blocked from attaining them on home soil.
That was initially due to an issue with information provided by Disclosure Scotland and, even when that was remedied, he was not welcomed back.
“I don’t want to talk about the negatives, but I can talk about a part of the journey that never sat well with me if I’m honest,” recalled Martindale. “I got accepted onto the ‘C’ License and I was four days into that when they asked me to leave the course.
“They told me that disclosure had come back and there was a condition on it. I then wrote to Disclosure Scotland, who took those conditions off and I was allowed to work with any age groups.
“But I couldn’t get back on the SFA ‘C’ License, which is what led me to do it with the Irish FA.”
That initially frosty relationship with those within the corridors of power at Hampden was also evident during his prior ‘Fit and Proper Person’ test, which saw him fail in the summer of 2019 as he sought to be rubber-stamped as director of football.
Instead, his title became head of football operations and continued with his duties, albeit he was not on the club’s Official Return of staff. And he still recalls a grilling that was on a par with anything he endured at the hands of the legal system.
“Tuesday’s hearing was a hundred times better than the last one,” continued Martindale. “The last one was like a High Court trial. In fact, I’ve been in a High Court trial – and that felt easier.
“I can remember sitting in the meeting actually sweating, under pressure.
“This one was a lot more friendly. I came off the meeting thinking: ‘That actually felt pretty positive.’ It was more friendly, although there were some probing questions, which I was more than happy to answer.”
Nothing will change in terms of Martindale’s methods, mannerisms or working practices. Nor should they, given he has guided his side to an 11-match unbeaten run, has reached the Betfred Cup final and is a hugely engaging presences.
There has, however, been one key consequence of the hearing ahead of Wednesday’s visit of Kilmarnock.
“I walked past the changing room after the verdict and all the boys are calling me gaffer now,” smiled Martindale.
And it’s official.