Not many eyebrows were raised when Livingston were beaten 3-1 at Parkhead on the opening day of the SPFL Ladbrokes Premiership season.
However, not the most optimistic Livingston fan could’ve seen them get off to such a remarkable start, being unbeaten in the league after that for a further seven league matches so far. From kicking off their League 1 campaign against Stranraer to sitting pretty in the top half of the top tier in two years.
Livi aren’t just here to make up the numbers, despite being hotly tipped for the drop from the off.
Even despite the loss of Kenny Miller, appointed player/manager at the start of the campaign before departing to Dundee, the Lions have continued to thrive. Gary Holt has come in and taken the squad to another level, even winning Premiership Manager of the Month for September.
So what is the reason for their success?
Holt believes it is down to hard work, a desire, a hunger and willingness to win. You need only look at the core of the players that have played with one another for a few years now. Shaun Byrne, Alan Lithgow and Keaghan Jacobs were all playing with the Lions in League 1.
At the time of writing, no player has scored more than a goal for them in the league this season. Livingston have scored eight goals in as many games with different goalscorers.
They seem to be formidable at the back, having only conceded five goals in three of their eight league matches so far this term. The trio of Declan Gallagher, club captain Craig Halkett and Lithgow have been outstanding as the three in front of equally impressive Liam Kelly in goal.
Big game specialists?
Notable scalps include home victories over Hibs and Rangers (2-1 and 1-0 respectively) and making Hearts drop their first points in the league season after their stalemate at Tynecastle in which Kelly saved a penalty.
Perfectly aware it’s early doors but they’ve already proved they can mix it with the big boys in this league (Celtic being the only exception).
A sole focus, sort of
What will have helped is putting all their eggs in the one basket. Yes they made it through their Betfred Cup group containing Airdrie, Annan Athletic, Berwick Rangers and fellow Premiership side Hamilton Academical but after being put out by fellow top tier Motherwell, all they’ve been able to focus on is Premiership fixtures.
Too early to hype?
And I know you’re reading this thinking “It’s only October” or “There’s still 30 games to go” but they’ve only to play three more teams before they’ll have played everyone upon their top tier return (Dundee, Aberdeen and St Johnstone).
St Johnstone have conceded 13 goals in their last three league games. Dundee are rock bottom of the league with seven losses and stuck on three points. Aberdeen haven’t looked like a fraction of the team they have been in recent seasons so far, sure that will change but don’t be surprised if the bookmakers fancy Livi against all three.
Neutrals would love to see them avoid injuries or the board be stubborn given clubs’ interest in their players. Craig Halkett’s a vital part of that and with his contract up at the end of the season, Rangers and Sheffield United are the latest credited with showing an interest in the centre back. It would be a total travesty should they lose their captain, a key part of the spine.
Had it not been for Kilmarnock and Celtic winning at the weekend, Livingston would be occupying a Europa League place. The same Livingston that’s won consecutive promotions from League 1 into the Premiership, truly unbelievable. If only Kenny Miller had stuck it out.
What’s left to wonder is just how far can they go?