The arrival of John Collins has transformed Livingston FC, writes Courier Sports' Kieran Westbrook.
The idea of John Collins sitting in an ITV studio discussing Livingston Football Club during the half time point of a Champions League match seemed laughable twelve months ago.
But there has been an incredible amount of change at Almondvale in 2012 - on the pitch, in the dressing room, and in the boardroom.
He is a world famous figure in football with the credentials and experience to back it up.
When he took on the newly created Director of Football role in February, Livingston were given national attention they simply wouldn’t have been able to attract otherwise - not for good news anyway.
The decision to bring in John Hughes as the club’s manager, after the sacking of Gary Bollan, also grabbed the headlines due to his prominence as a Celtic star and former Hibs manager.
And with the two men in place, there was a noticeable buzz around the club as fans raised their levels of expectation and showed a renewed hunger for the game.
What followed was the next big change at Livingston - their style of football on the pitch.
Former manager Gary Bollan was more interested in playing fast and direct football.
It wasn’t long ball football by any means, but clearing their lines and playing the percentages was the name of the game for the ex-Rangers and Livi defender.
That was quickly replaced by Hughes and Collins, with the former stating a new ‘culture’ and ‘philosophy’ was coming to Livingston.
Likenesses to Barcelona and Spain were quickly banded around, with the Lions now looking to be the best passers of the ball in Scottish football.
That proved a mixed blessing early on, with the first team living and sometimes dying by their own sword.
Slip-ups at the back cost them cheap goals one week, while the next you would see the best passing goal of the season.
Answering the critics
Livi have persisted with the strategy, and lately it has come good, with improved performances and results, answering a lot of the critics.
Livi have also benefited from Collins’ international contacts in the transfer market, with Jesus Garcia Tena and Tony Andreu joining the club.
Callum Booth, Jordan Morton and Burton O’Brien have also entered the fray, while an increased emphasis on developing younger players has led to youth players getting pitch time too.
When Hughes and Collins arrived at the club, questions were asked early on about who was in charge, how the partnership would work, and who would be picking the team.
The two friends successfully laughed off all such probing questions in their charismatic way, and it’s fair to say that many expected there to be a lot more of Hughes and less of Collins.
However, that simply hasn’t been the case with Collins attending most first team matches, and rarely far from Almondvale during day to day business.
Now Gareth Evans and Richie Burke are the bosses, and hopefully they will add to the positive changes at Almondvale.