BURTON O’BRIEN has seen at close quarters David Martindale’s remarkable rise from peripheral coaching volunteer to Livingston’s heartbeat – and hopes his old club’s own journey back from the brink ends in a sliver lining this weekend.
O’Brien was part of the Livi team that lifted the League Cup in 2004, bringing light to the dark days of administration with a Hampden victory over Hibernian.
After spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Falkirk, the midfielder then returned to Almondvale for a second stint in 2012.
It was then he got to know Martindale, whose role as self-proclaimed cone-shifter just a couple of years after leaving prison would gradually morph into his current overarching duties of manager and head of football operations.
The rehabilitation of the Lions boss has proved inspirational and, given Livingston also plumbed the depths after a second administration saw them relegated to League Two in 2009, O’Brien would love to see the West Lothian outfit lift the trophy 17 years on from his own success.
O’Brien, who now runs and is a coach at his own MOBO Sports Academy in Paisley, said: “Davie gradually just came in at the end of the season I went back there, but he didn’t have much involvement at the time in terms of coaching.
“He was in the dressing room and stuff like that, and was part of the team travelling, but he never had a huge impact in delivering coaching sessions and so on.
“But he has certainly done fantastically well, and it was a great appointment in him bringing in Liam Fox to help him as well. Both of them are working away well and the results have certainly picked up since they took over.
“I’ve had dealings with Davie more recently as well because I helped Keaghan Jacobs with his testimonial year and Davie was instrumental in that and very helpful.
“Both on and off the pitch, they’ve got their house in order – I think it maybe goes a wee bit unnoticed that they’ve turned things around off the pitch.
“A lot of credit goes to Davie in the way he’s managed to stabilise the club, and slowly but surely they’ve improved.
“They managed back-to-back promotions and you could argue they’re now solidifying themselves as a Premiership team. Great credit has to go to Davie, and all the other guys behind the scenes as well.
“I was pleased to see the club going on the fantastic run they did and the icing on the cake would be them collecting the trophy on Sunday.”
O’Brien admits he was perhaps too young to appreciate the full impact of administration in 2004, but he reckons Martindale has done a great job in fostering a siege mentality in recent times at Livingston, which could be crucial against St Johnstone on Sunday.
The 39-year-old former St Mirren and Blackburn Rovers player added: “We had administration to deal with and the current team have had their ups and downs this season as well, losing their top goal-scorer, Lyndon Dykes, and losing their manager a few months into the season in Gary Holt.
“But they’ve managed to come through that and shown their character. They deserve great credit for the way they’ve bounced back from a shaky start to the season.
“It depends on the circumstances, but as a coach and a manager you have to take a situation and see how you can manufacture that into helping your team or your squad.
“I think Davie’s certainly done that. Whatever you can use, whether it’s a manager leaving, or I know the club gets a bit of stick for their astroturf pitch, wee things can help galvanise the team.
“It creates a them against us and a team spirit within the group you can’t buy.”