Credit: deadline news
In March 2004, Livingston won their first and to date, only Major Scottish Trophy when they beat Hibernian 2-0 at Hampden Park in the League Cup. The victory, however, was in a season when the club were plunged into administration and a lot of uncertainty surrounded the Almondvale side.
One of the players who played for Livi that season was Scott McLaughlin, at the time a 20-year-old making his way in the game and he took the time to speak with me and share his thoughts and memories of that Final 17 years ago.
I first asked him about the clubs run to the semi-final.
Having gone through the early rounds in difficult ties against Queen’s Park, Dundee United and Aberdeen all away from home, then getting the slightly easier Semi-Final draw against Dundee, did you feel that Livingston could win it?
I remember right at the start after the Queen’s Park game the quote in the dressing room was “We’ve started at Hampden, let’s finish at Hampden”, but it was more of a throw away comment! We avoided the Old Firm but still had some very tough away ties but having avoided Celtic and Rangers we fancied our chances anyway. Then when we played Dundee, it was a toss of the coin to see who went through to the Final, and lucky for us we won 1-0.
The Club went into Administration on the day of the Semi-Final, did that give the players extra motivation for the game?
Yes, it actually galvanised everybody because you knew if someone was to buy the club you had to be successful, so the more successful we were the greater chances of people’s jobs being saved. Loads of people lost their jobs on the day of the semi final but you didn’t want it to happen to more people, so winning and being successful was the only way to stop the redundancies happening.
Was the administration something that you saw coming?
I was young at the time, but you knew that some of the boys were on big money and we were not getting big crowds, so there was an inevitability that something somewhere was going to go wrong but when it does, it’s a surreal experience seeing people lose their jobs, earning really good money one day then the next day getting paid nothing. It was a real shame.
In the Semi-Final against Dundee at Easter Road, was there much in the game?
It was very tight nothing really in it, both teams were nervy as semi-finals tend to be because you are so close to a final and you don’t want to make a mistake that sends the other side through. There is no better time to score than virtually the last kick of the game and Del (Derek Lilley), with one of the best penalties all season when he smashes it into the top corner is followed by some unbelievable scenes. His record that season, not just with penalties, but in general was unbelievable. He was flying all season for us and he was the go-to guy especially for penalties. If you could pick anyone from either of the two sides you would have picked Derek Lilley that day.
After winning that game, did you or the other players have a preference as to who you faced in the final, either Hibs or Rangers?
For me personally, I didn’t have a preference, I was just so happy to get there but we did watch the game and watch the shoot-out as Hibs won. The older guys preferred Hibs because it would have been a more even fixture as we were always massive underdogs against the Old Firm, but we would have taken anybody in the final. The main thing was us getting there. I think though, you knew quietly you had a better chance at beating Hibs because they were more on your level.
What was your experience of the build up to the final the week prior?
The build up was incredible, I was only 20 and it was all new to me. There was press everywhere. We geared up for the final by staying away at the Crutherland Hotel in East Kilbride, which was not far from Hampden. George McNeill, the fitness coach, he did his after-dinner routine for us and it was hilarious. It made the players at ease, not worrying about the next day. We didn’t wear suits, we wore tracksuits because that’s what we had done all season, so we tried to keep it as normal as possible. I tried to take it in my stride, nobody was really interested in me; it was more the bigger players and Hibs players. It was good for me because I could just focus on the game and try and bring the cup home. I kind of knew, having been on the bench a lot, I was going to be there or there abouts when the team was named, and I knew I was going to be involved in some capacity.
On the big day, what was your memories of the final?
I remember being on the bus on the way to the game, the fans lining the street and we stopped at Dominic Keane’s, the chairman, house because he stayed next to Hampden! The Livi fans, although outnumbered, cheering us into the ground as we drove under to get into the dressing rooms. And for me being so young, it was something you had only seen on the telly then being involved in was unbelievable.
The Livi fans made a lot of noise and they backed us well, not just on the day but throughout the season even with the administration, we thought if we could give them something back this was the day to do it. Hibs were favourites and their fans expected to turn us over as well, but it shows having a larger support doesn’t guarantee anything.
We had a great record against Hibs and Aberdeen that season and we played them a lot and we were confident heading into the game. Alan Main asked me my thoughts on the game the night before and I said, “I think we can win”, and he replied, “We’ll never have a better opportunity to win than this”, so he was confident because we had beaten Hibs already that season.
Once the game started, they gave us an absolute doing in the first half. They could have easily been a couple of goals up but we’ve managed to hang in there and when we got the first goal I felt that there was only going to be one winner. When Derek scores, it’s the catalysis to go on and win the game because Jamie McAllister scores shortly after that and to be honest after Jamie scores, you knew that was game over.
Can you explain why Jamie McAllister was in the position he was in for his goal?
(Laughs) I still have no idea! I think he scored one goal prior to that and it was a screamer from long range but to this day I have no idea why he was so far up the field, but I was pleased he was because although he never scored a lot of goals, when we did shooting drills in training, Jamie was a good finisher, very composed. If you watch it back, he’s made a run from his own box and wee Dave (David Fernandez) finds him with a great pass.
On a personal note, you came on as a sub, how was that for you?
It was brilliant. I got 15/20 minutes in a Cup final and it showed the manager trusted me to put me on the park because it was a vital time in the game and not just to run down the clock. I came on for David McNamee and I was up against Derek Riordan and the manager trusted me to keep him quiet. I settled into the game; my first couple of passes I passed it into the midfield or strikers and after that I felt I earned my medal after the game.
How vital was manager Davie Hay’s experience in getting you through the game?
Davie was the best manager I worked with and I was gutted I only worked with him for a couple of years so early in my career. If I worked with him longer, I think I would have had a even better career than I had, but he was such a calming influence on the players, he trusted his players and the players trusted him. I remember before the final, I played against Motherwell and I didn’t play well and ended up not playing for the next few games.
I went to see Davie and asked him why and he was honest and said I wasn’t great against Motherwell and he gave it to me clear as day. So, I went away worked hard and he brought me on in the final because I worked hard after the conversation we had. I expected every manager after that to be honest during my career, but some weren’t as honest, but I tried to be as honest as I could and that was all because of Davie.
After the game, you went on to lift the trophy and collect your medal. Is that a highlight of your career?
That moment was incredible. As a kid, as a Celtic fan, you watch Celtic lift trophies and you never ever think it will be you, so it was a surreal moment. It was a special, special moment. My dad has my medal, and he keeps it in a work study somewhere and I haven’t seen it in years to be honest. When you look back, the day does go by very, very quickly and you don’t appreciate it because I was thinking that at 20 years old, this can happen every year for me. But the fact it’s never happened again for Livingston shows how big a deal it really was.
Livingston are in this seasons League Cup semi-final, what would it mean to you if they repeated the efforts of the 2004 side?
I would love for them to do it again. The experience we had, I would love for this team to have the same experiences as we did and out of the teams that is left, they are the team that I want to win it. Talk about momentum, they couldn’t have a better momentum coming it the semi-finals. They are flying at the minute, beating everyone but St Mirren are doing well too so it’ll be a tough game and all four teams will fancy their chances of winning it.
Written by Colin Byiers