Following my previous two trips to Hartlepool and Darlington in the North East of England, I had a sudden itch to take in a Scottish game for the very first time. Livingston were selling tickets for their upcoming Scottish Cup game v Ross County at a discounted price, so that seemed like a reasonable place to begin.
I have no idea why the thought occurred to me but I’m glad it did and now I have the urge to ‘complete the 42’ Scottish grounds.
The things I talk myself into and oh, the poor mistreated wife!
Livingston FC – The History
Founded as a works team for the Ferranti electronics factory in Edinburgh in 1943 and initially known as Ferranti Amateurs, the club changed its name to Ferranti Thistle in 1948.
For some years they successfully competed at the non-league level, picking up silverware on a pretty regular basis and eventually gaining entry to the Scottish Cup, where they faced Partick Thistle at Firhill in Glasgow.
Despite losing 6-1, they had made themselves known to the Scottish football community and were able to gain entry into the Scottish Football League in 1974. Initially, they had problems meeting league criteria with their name and their City Park ground.
These issues were solved when Edinburgh Corporation offered the club the use of the new Meadowbank Stadium which had all the modern facilities, having only recently been built for the 1970 Empire Games. This also led to the rebranding of the club as Meadowbank Thistle and 1974 saw their very first league campaign begin.
Clearly, much of Edinburgh is populated by Hearts and Hibernian supporters and the potential for the club’s growth was stifled by this. The decision was made to move the club twenty miles to the west of the capital, into the new town of Livingston, West Lothian. It was hoped that here, a new fanbase could be established and grow over the years as it became ‘home’.
Despite protests from loyal Meadowbank supporters, the club’s name was changed from Meadowbank Thistle to Livingston FC in 1995. Maybe Livingston Thistle would have been a more popular choice and helped to retain a nod to the club’s history? The thistle does at least still remain on the club’s crest.
In November of the same year, Livingston FC moved to their new home at the Almondvale Stadium in Livingston. There was a ten-fold increase in attendances and swift success followed. By 2001, the club had gained promotions from the old Division 3 to the Scottish Premier League!
2004 saw the incredible paradox of going into administration and a month later winning the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden Park against Hibernian.
The club was saved from extinction but suffered relegation just two seasons after their cup final success. In 2009 the club faced its second period in administration and this time faced a huge penalty from the league as they were demoted back to the third division – Ouch!
They were back in the SPL for the 2018/19 season after successfully beating Partick Thistle in the playoff game at the culmination of the previous campaign.
The future of a club with such previous tumult probably shouldn’t be predicted by me but I do have my fears for them having seen how small their attendance was at the game I went to. Having said that, they have a rich local businessman – restauranteur, Tony Macaroni – at the helm of the club and I wish them a long period of stability ahead.
Livingston v Ross County Match Ticket
Livingston – Pre-Game
Tickets for the game were bought in advance via Livingston’s online ticketing system at a cost of £15.00 each.
Our travel costs for the day were a bus to Newcastle (£9.00) and a train from Newcastle to Livingston (£51.10 with a Two Together card) bringing the grand total to £90.10 for tickets and travel for two.
As our adventures progress these costs should go down because I started booking advance tickets, which can considerably lessen the cost of travel.
Until then, I continue to wince a little…
After catching the 08:49 train from Newcastle, we changed trains at Edinburgh Waverley and were soon on our way to Livingston, arriving just after 11:00 am.
We arrived at Livingston North train station and from there took a leisurely stroll down to Livingston Village via Peel Park, where there were plenty of people out and about walking their dogs and most smiled or said “Hello” as they passed by. That kind of thing goes a long way with me and says a lot about the people who live there.
A word to the wise… when you’re heading to a pub or restaurant for lunch, make sure you check out the opening times before you head there! We were heading to the historic Livingston Inn, which dates back to 1760. We arrived around 11:30 and found that it didn’t open until 12:00. After a half-hour wait, the doors were opened and we walked in, feeling, I must confess, like one of those people who knock on a pub door at nine in the morning demanding to know why they can’t get drunk yet.
The staff and service were excellent at the Livingston Inn and special thanks to the bartender lady who let my wife recharge her phone behind the bar while we ate lunch. The Scottish Cup was already underway and the Auchinleck Talbot v Hearts game was on the TV. Pretty predictably, Hearts made short work of the amateur club with a comfortable 0-5 scoreline, although two of those goals came in the last ten minutes.
A lovely meal consisting of beef and ale pie for myself and a brunch burger for Mrs Hopper was put in front of us and demolished in style while we watched the game. A couple of pints helped wash it down and all too soon we were ready to make our way to the Tony Macaroni Stadium.
A further 0.8-mile walk (according to Google Maps) and we were there. I went into the club shop to buy a programme and was amazed to be told they only took cash for programmes. I was amazed because this was during a time when all of those Covid measures were still in place and being strictly enforced but they were still happy to take money out of my hands instead of swiping a card…
Anyway, small moan aside and programme and tickets at the ready, we went into our first-ever Scottish stadium.
The first thing that struck me was that both ends of the ground were unused and the other side of the ground contained the smallish contingent of away supporters. The second thing of note was the pitch. I hadn’t seen an artificial pitch since the old away days at Luton Town, QPR, Oldham Athletic and Preston North End.
Apparently, this new generation of artificial pitches is an improvement on those hard bouncy plastic pitches from the eighties and if you are interested in the improvements made, then this link will help explain the new generation of artificial surfaces.
Livingston – Stadium Gallery
Livingston – The Game
With both of these sides being from the Scottish Premier League, the game was always likely to be a tight affair and that’s exactly how it panned out.
Livingston was the slightly better team for the majority of the ninety minutes without ever really dominating the game.
In the end, it was settled by a penalty won as early as the fifteenth minute, after Ross County centre-back Declan Drysdale was adjudged to have taken out Livingston striker Bruce Anderson in the box.
Ayo Obileye calmly swept the ball home from the spot and wheeled away to celebrate with the hordes… ok, thousand or so, Livingston fans around us.
As I said, it was a closely contested game where both sides had eight shots at goal but Livingston took their main opportunity and managed to hold on for a win and progress to the next round.
Of course, fate would later decree that they would be drawn against Hearts, the team we had watched win earlier while eating lunch. I love life’s little quirks.
There was quite an interesting Birmingham connection in the Livingston line-up as two loan players from opposing sides of the second city play for the Lions. Birmingham City‘s superbly named attacking midfielder Odin Bailey and Aston Villa forward Caleb Chukwuemeka, whose brother, Carney, is also at the Villa.
Both players had decent games and will benefit from their time in the SPL I’m sure.
The full match report can be read here, courtesy of the BBC website
Attendance – 1,227
Entrance Fee – £15.00
Programme – £3.00
Livingston – Match Highlights and Personal Video
Livingston – After the Game
Exiting the stadium around five minutes after the final whistle, we came upon the amusing sight of around a dozen excitable teenagers in Ross County scarves bouncing around trying to find a fight with the departing Livingston supporters, who were largely taking no notice of them.
One young man seemed willing to take them all on and I had to laugh to myself when they started to bounce around even more. A security guard came over and clipped one of them around the ear and told them to clear off and… they did. (I really wish I had a video clip of that little bit of entertainment but alas not)
That was the end of the Ross County aggro for the day and we started on the mile and a half walk back to Livingston North train station hoping that nothing as alarming as what we had just witnessed would happen again!
We made it safely back, you will be relieved to hear and a smooth journey home had us sitting with our feet up and sipping hot chocolate by ten o’clock that night.