By Kevin Scott and Sheelagh McLaren
An abrupt end to David Martindale’s tenure as Livingston manager would be “grossly unfair”, the club’s chief executive said on Monday.
John Ward was speaking to STV News ahead of Martindale’s Hampden encounter on Tuesday with the Scottish FA, who are yet to determine whether he passes their fit-and-proper test.
The 46-year-old Livingston boss was sentenced to a six-year jail term in 2006 following drug and money-laundering charges.
But Martindale has enjoyed the best introduction to management imaginable since stepping up to replace Gary Holt as Livingston boss in November.
Livi won their first eight games under his charge before drawing twice with Celtic.
The West Lothian side are also just 90 minutes away from winning silverware following their 1-0 League Cup semi-final win over St Mirren on Sunday.
Livingston face St Johnstone in the final at Hampden on February 28.
Ward said: “Football can be fickle and fans can be quite harsh with each other but I’ve barely seen a post that wasn’t supportive.
“We’ve put what we think is a pretty good submission together and, you know, hopefully tomorrow the impetus will keep us going and it would be very difficult if it went the wrong way, how we would handle it, what we would do about it.”
Ward says the club also wants to send a message to children in the local area that they can turn their life around if they get into difficulty.
He said: “The club represents an area that is socially deprived, there are issues around education, so if we’re going to be telling 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, of our young people that if you get into trouble or if you make some wrong choices there’s no hope for you, you’re never going to be able to develop what your initial plans were, or what your goals were when you were a kid – that’s a powerful message to be sending to kids.
“If we’re showing it the other way round and we have David as an example of what focus and changing your life can do, I think that’s a very strong message to kids.
Hannah Bardell, MP for Livingston, has submitted a letter to the SFA, urging them to look positively upon Martindale at the hearing.
She said that allowing him to continue in his role as manager of the West Lothian club would send a “very strong message about what is possible and that there is life and opportunity after crime”.
Bardell wrote: “I hope you and those at the SFA considering David’s ability to undertake his role will consider that he stands out as a figure who is proof that it is possible to turn your life around, be rehabilitated and move forward positively.
“Rehabilitation is a vital part of a civilised society and I know the SFA try to be a positive force in that regard.”
Meanwhile, a professor renowned for his work on the Hillsborough disaster has also written an unsolicited letter to SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell, which has been published by Livingston.
Phil Scraton, of Queen’s University Belfast, said he felt compelled to enter a submission after watching television coverage of Martindale’s impending case.
Ahead of the hearing, Scraton wrote in his submission: “Granted remission, it is clear in David Martindale’s case that the punitive element of his sentence had been realised.
“He admitted his guilt and in prison he took the opportunity to gain a university degree.
“His release laid the foundation for continuing rehabilitation, which clearly has been successful. Almost a decade on, his progress at Livingston FC and his appointment as the club’s interim manager demonstrates the board’s confidence in his employment as a ‘fit and proper person’.”
Scraton, whose work on the Hillsborough disaster spanned three decades, says much of his research, teaching and publications have focused on prisons, penal reform and prisoner rehabilitation including in-depth research in Scotland’s prisons.
He wrote: “Throughout my work, I am aware of the institutional difficulties faced by prisoners leaving prisons unscathed by the difficulties they face inside and the uncertain futures they experience in the community.
“I expect that Livingston’s confidence is based not only on the success of the club under his management but also on how he has adjusted to working with players, all involved with the club and the media.
“His media statements have been contrite and show humility in the face of exceptional public scrutiny.
“I believe that within its grasp the Scottish FA has the opportunity to acknowledge David Martindale’s remarkable personal and professional transition.
“By accepting he passes the ‘fit and proper person’ test, the SFA not only, rightfully, would recognise his transition but also demonstrate to other authorities and employers that those who have committed serious offences, through their own efforts and with the support of others, can turn their lives around.”