Livingston captain Marvin Bartley wants to complete a treble haul of Scottish trophies to keep up his career of proving his doubters wrong.
When the West Lothian club last lifted the League Cup Bartley was about to be released by Burnham FC – then plying their trade in England’s Southern Football League Division One West – and told he was not cut out for a career in football.
Ahead of Sunday’s cup final against St Johnstone at Hampden, the 34-year-old said has relied on self-belief to forge his career in England and Scotland.
Asked where he was when Livi won their first major honour by beating Hibernian in the 2004 final, Bartley said: “Back then I was getting released and being told I wasn’t good enough to make it.
“I probably hadn’t heard of Livingston so back then I’d have never dreamt of this – not in my wildest dreams would I thought I’d have the opportunity to lead the team out at Hampden and possibly win a national competition.
“Self-belief is the most important thing and I never stopped believing in what I can do.
“I say to young players now that there will be managers who say they are not good enough to play there but other managers will love you.
“At 18 I was released by a manager at Burnham who didn’t think I was good enough and then [two years later] Eddie Howe, one of the best young managers about, signs me and takes me to Bournemouth.
“Football is full of opinions but the only one that truly matters is the one within yourself.”
Bartley was also written off by some when he turned down offers to stay in the English Football League after departing Leyton Orient in 2015.
The midfielder chose instead to sign for Alan Stubbs at Hibernian in the Scottish Championship – a move that led to the player winning silverware and discovering a new home north of the border.
Bartley said: “I came into the professional game really late and then when I did finally come up to Scotland people were telling me I was basically going in to semi-retirement and that I had no ambition.
“I had that from a few people who I turned down to come up here.
“I came up here and won the Championship, I was part of the squad that won the Scottish Cup and I hope I can complete that by winning the League Cup on Sunday.
“I did come up here to prove a point and if I can win the League Cup I think that shows everybody I made the right decision.”
Bartley is completing his coaching qualifications and is already in charge of Livingston’s reserve team.
Asked if he was now settled and ready to call Scotland his homeland he said: “Yeah definitely – until England play Scotland and then I’ll be sitting on the fence!
“I love it here, the people have been fantastic and I definitely feel at home here.
“I always strive to be the best possible version of Marvin Bartley I can be and luckily enough it’s taken me to play in some big games and win some competitions.
“I never though that this would happen to someone like me; a kid from Reading brought up in a single parent home – these sort of things don’t happen.
“I hope I can complete a really good story on Sunday.”