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"Livingston 5" take over Almondvale

It's just five short years since Livingston won the Scottish League Cup.

Derek Lilley and Jamie McAllister netted in the 2-0 final victory over Hibs at Hampden Park to seal a fairytale win. It looked as if that achievement would only further cement Livi's place among the elite teams in Scotland.

That silverware success even came on the back of qualifying for the UEFA Cup after finishing third in their debut season in the Scottish Premier League back in the 2001-02 campaign.

The future looked bright for the club that made a rapid rise through the ranks up to the Scottish Premier League. But now the dream is in danger of turning into a living nightmare.

So what has gone wrong? Have they paid the ultimate price for living the dream just like Gretna?

Well their rise to the top proved to be relatively short lived when they dropped out of the top flight in May 2006 having earlier slipped into financial administration. And they've faced an uphill battle ever since with things going from bad to worse for the Lothian side.

Just last week Livingston were relegated from the First Division to the Third Division after breaching insolvency rules.

The club refused to accept the decision and failed to play their opening fixture against East Stirlingshire. They also appealed against the radical move but that proved to be fruitless at an SFL meeting.

However, the club could now try to plead their case to a high power - the Scottish Football Association - although that looks unlikely to be a rewarding path to follow.

The Scottish Football League also said the drastic move at least gives the club the chance to continue with their league membership following a series of problems.

They are due to face Montrose at home on Saturday although they may again choose to boycott that match which would then create further fixture chaos.

Livingston's saga has been a long running affair although there appeared to be a recent ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel for the Lions.

A consortium headed up by former director Ged Nixon, ex-Cowdenbeath owner Gordon McDougall and former Dumbarton chairman Neil Rankine launched a rescue package.

An administrator had been placed in charge of the club's affairs since the Court of Session stepped in after West Lothian Council lodged a petition for non payment of rent for Almondvale Stadium.

Donald McGruther, who was placed in interim charge, believes the radical move could spell the end for the outfit which is why they launched their appeal.

McGruther had been appointed in the wake of legal moves to recover debts owed by the club and Italian owners headed up by Angelo Massone. He took charge at the end of June last year when Pearse Flynn decided to sell his shares. But the Italian consortium failed to pay West Lothian Council - the owners of the stadium. And the debt that Massone refused to pay sparked all the recent controversy.

After a tense struggle Massone finally sold his stake in the club for £50,000 to clear the way for McDougall and Rankine to stamp their mark on things. Subsequently the "Livingston 5" consortium has now assumed full control of the club.

McDougall has been confirmed as the club's new chairman with Nixon now in the post of chief executive.

However, the shock relegation means Livingston's new owners face an extremely tough challenge ahead. But there's no doubting the commitment of the new men at the helm.

McDougall and Rankine stumped up a £720,000 bond to the SFL to ensure the club would be secure for at least the next year, although that wasn't enough to stop Livi's relegation.

They have already said that in the wake of their demotion to Division Three they share everyone's frustration at having not played their opening fixture. That suggests there might be a Livi team in place to face Montrose at home this weekend.

However, the new chiefs can only dream of fielding established top flights professionals like Marvin Andrews and David Fernandez.

It's all a far cry from when Livingston first formed. Originally founded in 1943 as Ferranti Thistle the club was renamed Meadowbank Thistle in 1974.

But in 1995 there was another name change when it became Livingston and relocated to the town just outside Edinburgh.

Livi enjoyed significant success by winning promotion to the Scottish Premier League in 2001, qualifying for the UEFA Cup and then winning the League Cup in 2004.

Let's hope the new owners can rediscover some of the old Livingston magic to help them climb all the way back up the leagues to the top flight.


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