Ged Nixon Story
GED Nixon has defended the Board of Directors’ controversial decision to boot Gary Bollan out of Livingston FC.
The boss who masterminded back-to-back league titles for the Lions was sacked on Sunday on the back of a run of poor results in the First Division and Scottish Cup.
But the Lions’ chief executive has told Courier Sport that the decision to axe Bollan had nothing to do with the current slum in form.
The club supremo revealed that Bollan got the chop because of his approach to developing the club’s youth setup.
Or rather, according to Nixon, his failure to embrace the club’s own commitment to it.
“We felt that Gary Bollan was not buying into the club’s youth development,” he said.
“We on the board believe the only way to make Livingston survive and thrive is by developing our own talent and, from time to time, selling them on for money that will sustain future development.
“We made that very clear to Gary from the outset.
“When he came to the club he was made well aware of our position and if he had not supported that, he would not have got the job in the first place.”
Livingston’s squad of players are among the youngest in Scottish football, with teenagers Marc McNulty and Stefan Scougall often making the first team alongside 20-year-old Kyle Jacobs.
But Nixon reckons Bollan was freezing capable youth players out of the first-team setup as he eyed players from outwith the club.
He brought in Mark Fotheringham and Maurice Ross on loan deals and made noises about adding a back-up left-back to the squad.
Nixon claims Bollan didn’t prioritise the development of the current crop of players in the under-19 squad, and it was this lack of enthusiasm for youth that led to his downfall.
Nixon said: “Gary wanted us to be the sort of club we could not afford to be.
“He was looking to bring in players from outside the club when there are perfectly capable young players here.
“If these youngsters were not up to playing at that level, he would have a strong argument.
“But he didn’t attend youth games because of other commitments.
“Now, that’s fine, but if a manager isn’t going to attend those matches then he has to take advice from the development officer [Brian Welsh] who had identified players who could step up.
“He wasn’t doing that.
“When you invest so much time and effort and money into youth development, it is frustrating to watch it go to waste.
“Some players have been left to stagnate in the under-19s.”
He added: “Let me be clear – this was a decision made by the whole board.
“At times, the board has disagreed on issues.
“But on this, there were no dissenting voices – it was unanimous.”
Bollan’s newly promoted Livi were sixth in the table and staving off the relegation threat, despite a poor run due to a dip in form and a run of tough fixtures.
But Nixon refused to point at the league results as the main reason for Bollan’s demise.
He said: “It is true that the results haven’t been great right now.
“If they had been better then he might have been in a stronger position regarding player selection.
“Make no bones about it – Gary Bollan has had fantastic success at Livingston and he deserves praise for that.
“And I don’t doubt he will find another job in football.
“But as his employers, we weren’t happy with the approach he was taking.
“When we came to Livingston, the youth development had been decimated.
“We have put a huge amount of effort into turning that around and you can see by the results they are having in the youth league that it is bearing fruit.”
Livingston players were shocked to find out on social networking site Twitter that their boss had been axed on Sunday.
Nixon summoned the squad to a meeting on Monday morning to discuss the decision.
And despite players’ voicing concerns over their gaffer being dumped, Nixon insists that by the end of the meeting they were all onside.
He said: “I met with the players to explain our reasoning and there were a few dissenting voices. A few of the more seasoned players had concerns and, I’ll be honest, I would have been concerned too if I was them.
“But I explained to them our feelings and I believe that by the end of the meeting they were satisfied.
“A lot of the players were very close to Gary Bollan and it is natural that some will not have liked the decision.
“But they are a really great bunch of lads and they have taken it like professionals.”
The hunt now begins to find a replacement to fill the vacant hot seat.
The chief executive says there has been a lot of interest in the post and aims to fill the position next week.
And one thing that will clearly need to jump off the page of any hopeful candidate’s CV will be a devotion to developing young players.
Nixon added: “The phones have been in meltdown with the amount of applications we have received.
“Some are household names while others have come out of left-field.
“We will collate them over the weekend with a view to having someone in place next week.
“Clearly they will need to have a proven track record of working with young players, and show a commitment to developing them. “And we will not consider them if they do not.”
Meanwhile, Gary Bollan told Courier Sport that he is so shocked by his sacking that he feels he is not in a position to comment at this time.
It has been reported in a national newspaper that he is preparing to take legal action against the club.
For more reaction on Gary Bollan’s shock departure and a preview to Saturday’s clash with Partick Thistle at Braidwood Motor Company Stadium, see page 54.