Livingston have won eight games in a row and gone from relegation candidates to the top six in the Scottish Premiership in a month. Defender Jon Guthrie tells us how…
One of the more eyebrow-raising stories in Scottish football in recent weeks has been the extraordinary form of Livingston.
Since Gary Holt stepped down in November, Livi have played eight games – six in the league, a couple in the League Cup – and have won them all.
David Martindale, previously Holt’s assistant, was given the reins temporarily, but such was their form that he gave the club little choice but to appoint him permanently at the end of December.
So what’s changed? How have Livi gone from a team in danger of being sucked into a relegation scrap in the last days of Holt, to now in fifth place and with half an eye on a European place?
Livi defender Jon Guthrie spoke exclusively to JJ Bull on The Totally Scottish Football Show to explain.
“I think it’s hard to probably name one or two things [that have changed],” Guthrie said.
“I think it’s just a general thing. Everyone’s so confident at the minute, everyone’s going into the game so positively. I think we look such a threat. At the start of the season we were conceding too many goals.
“Since Davie took over, we’ve worked a lot on getting back to clean sheets, what we were good at last season. We know our players are going to create chances to score goals, so it was down to us as a back four and keeper to keep more clean sheets, which we’ve started to do. We started to concede less. And obviously the boys are still scoring goals, so it seems to be working at the moment.”
And one of the sources of those goals has been Guthrie himself. He already has five this season (three in his last six), matching his tally from last term.
“I don’t really know where it’s come from. Throughout my career, I wasn’t really known as a goal-scoring centre-back. We do do a lot of work on it – it’s not by luck that we’re good at set pieces and seem to score goals.
“The ball seems to be just landing to me at some points, so hopefully it can continue. But I think to be fair, we’ve not really got someone that’s going to score double figures goals, so everyone’s chipping in, which is good for the team. If I can keep that up, it’ll be good.”
They’re not only having success from attacking set-pieces, but defensive ones too, and one of the keys to their revival has been improving their record of keeping things tight in those situations.
“It’s something we spoke about, conceding too many from set pieces,” said Guthrie, “which as a team, we shouldn’t really do. You know, we’ve got some big boys in the team, some good leaders, so it’s something we let ourselves down with. So now we have worked a lot on that and it definitely seems to be getting better.
“We go through it quite a lot. We have done we have done quite a lot of tactical work, 11 v 11s, working on our set pieces, literally getting back to the basics and talking us through what exactly you want from us. There’s no one in that team who doesn’t know their role. Everyone knows what they’re in the team to do. Everyone knows their role. Everyone knows their job. So there’s no ifs or buts.
“We haven’t really changed. From wide free kicks we still have our zones, we have a line, but it’s just more the individuals in that know exactly what they’re to do now. There’s maybe a few ifs or buts before. Nothing major, to be honest. There’s not been any major changes. It was just about, going over and over and over until we got it right, basically.”
The mood at the club has obviously changed, and while it’s always tricky in those situations to work out whether results have improved because of the mood, or the mood has improved because of the results, it’s clearly working.
“I think the atmosphere has changed definitely, but that basically come from winning games. Obviously before when we were on a bad spell, it was only natural that everyone’s a bit quiet, everyone’s down. Then you pick up a few results, pick up some wins, and you can see everyone’s coming into train buzzing, going into games everyone’s so confident.
“I think even under Holt the atmosphere has been good. You know, the boys are top quality, everyone gets on the staff were always good with us. Davie in particular is a really positive guy, as all the staff are. They keep us lifted. At the moment, it’s a joy to come in, everyone’s bouncing around the place making jokes, laughing, but knuckling down when we need to.”
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