Phillip Buckley

Newly transferred to Scottish Second Division club Livingston this summer, Inside Futbol writer Iain Russell is tipped to make a big impression this season; in fact, he’s already begun by banging in goals left, right and centre.

Having moved from Greenock Morton to a side which has previously played in the Scottish top flight, Inside Futbol’s Phillip Buckley had a chat with Iain as the new season gets under way:

PB: Hi Iain, how did pre-season go at Livingston?

IR: Pre-season has been great, although it was pretty tough. I thought the training was excellent as the gaffer mixed it up each day, instead of just being down the pitch running every day we had days in the gym in which we did weights, spin classes and swimming. We also had a couple of days on the beach which sounds great, but it was actually some of the hardest running we did during pre-season. 

PB: So have you settled in at the club?

IR: It’s always difficult going into a new dressing room, but the boys have been brilliant with me and have made me feel very welcome and a part of things already. We had a pre-season trip to Belfast which was good and helped me get to know the boys a bit better too. I roomed with experienced striker Robbie Winters and even though he spent the whole trip winding me up it did help me feel part of the squad!

PB: What have been your first impressions at Almondvale?

IR: The setup at Livingston is excellent; the stadium is one of the best in Scotland and can generate a great atmosphere. Having played in the SPL (Scottish Premier League) and in Europe in the club’s short history, it is a place that is set up for the SPL and I believe Gary Bollan is the man to get the club back where it belongs.

PB: It must not have taken too much to convince you to join Livingston then. How exactly did it come about?

IR: I knew Gary Bollan having previously played for him at Brechin and he got in touch with me during the summer. I was keen to meet with him and when I did he sold the club to me. I had other offers and Morton were keen to extend my contract, but although I enjoyed my time at Morton, and I believe Allan Moore is an excellent manager, I felt it was time for a change and I was excited about joining Livingston.

PB: You’d been at Morton since 2007, and despite it being time for a change as you said, was it still hard to leave?

IR: It was difficult to leave Morton, as I have mentioned I like the new Morton manager and I think he will do great at the club. I also have many close friends which I will leave behind, but that’s football. Morton is a fantastic club with a great fanbase and hopefully Allan Moore will have them challenging at the right end of the table.

PB: At Livingston you’ve stepped into a club which are hot favourites with the bookmakers to win the Second Division. Does that put any extra pressure on yourself and the players? And what can you do to make sure you hit the heights expected?

IR: Yeah, the boys are aware that we are favourites for the league; I think the bookies see Livingston being the only full time team in the league and automatically make us favourites. But football doesn’t work like that, being tagged the favourites will only make it more difficult for us with the other teams raising their game against us. We have a young enthusiastic side and the manager wants us to get the ball down a pass. We have to use the full time issue to our advantage though by working extremely hard in training as we have the extra training sessions over the other teams in the league. Hopefully this will give us the edge and see us lift the trophy at the end of the season.

PB: Of course though, being the favourites and the big team in the league, other sides are going to want to beat you. Do you think you’ll be seen as a scalp? And how do you prevent that working against you?

IR: I believe teams will see us a scalp, as I said we are the only full time team in the league, so before the game even begins teams have an edge to say go and beat Livingston. Also the stadium is a great place to play football and teams will automatically raise their game when visiting us. It will be important for us not to relax in any game and not take anything for granted; there will be no easy games for Livingston this season, but I am sure the gaffer and assistant Scott Patterson will have us up for every game and won’t let us drop our standards.

PB: You’ve already got off the mark with Livingston, have you set yourself any personal goals this season?

IR: It was great to score in my first pre-season game with the club. I have not set myself any personal goals, but I believe we have a great attacking side with many creative players who will be setting up chances, so hopefully I can be on the end of these.

PB: You do have experience of Second Division football from your spell with Stirling last season, where your goals really helped to win the league. How did you find it?

IR: My loan spell at the end of last season was amazing. On a personal level it was great to find the net as it gave me my confidence back. I was given the chance by Alan Moore to play regular football again and he put faith in me to play every game on the run in. Stirling had ten games to go and were 15 points behind Alloa; to overturn that was a fantastic achievement and a wonderful experience for the team and we all have a medal to show for our hard work.

PB: You signed a two-year deal with Livingston, so you’ve given the club a vote of confidence. What do you think you can achieve while you’re here?

IR: I am looking forward to my time at Livingston, I have really enjoyed my time at the club so far and hope I can be a part of the club’s future as I believe it is a club destined to be back in the SPL. I have aspirations of playing in the top league and I hope it is with Livingston.

PB: Many thanks for your time Iain and look forward to reading your next article for Inside Futbol! Best of luck for the season ahead.