The Livingston manager’s rehabilitation sets a positive example and he shouldn’t be defined by his past

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It’s always an interesting one when football tries to take the moral high ground.

When not awarding a World Cup to Qatar, bankrolling Premier League success with money from regimes with questionable human rights records and wearing t-shirts in support of your team-mate after he racially abused a black player, football likes to claim it’s a progressive environment.

In David Martindale, however, football can boast someone who genuinely sets a positive example.

The Livingston boss expressed his concern this week that he could fail an impending ‘Fit and Proper Person’ test from the SFA. His worries are in regards to a six-and-a-half-year sentence for drugs and money laundering offences handed out in 2006, of which Martindale served four years.

There is no getting away from the severity of those crimes, but Martindale in 2021 stands as a shining example of rehabilitation.

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He has reckoned with his past and shown real contrition, telling the Guardian in December: “There will always be obstacles but I honestly don’t mind that. I created the obstacles.

“Have I got to work a bit harder than the guy who hasn’t been to prison? Probably, rightly so. But so long as you are given an opportunity.”

That humility is refreshing. Martindale was in his twenties when he was arrested. He’s now 46, and clearly demonstrates a level of maturity that the young players he works with can learn from.

His superb start to life in the Livingston dugout saw him receive December’s Scottish Premiership Manager of the Month award.

While that award serves as recognition of his impressive results on the pitch, his manner off it is even more worthy of praise.

As confirmed on Wednesday, Martindale has chosen to donate his Manager of the Month award for a raffle in aid of the Kick Mental Health charity, which aims to combat poor mental health, stigma and loneliness through physical and virtual activities.

That Martindale is willing to part with the first significant award of his managerial career in order to help others is testament to his character.

When he was taken on at Livingston in 2014, he would perform duties such as collecting cones twice a week in a volunteer capacity, before returning to work on a construction site.

Working 70-hour weeks, Martindale was eventually offered an assistant manager position under David Hopkins in January 2016.

When he was first offered a permanent job as manager following Hopkins’ departure in 2018, he turned the job down on the basis that he didn’t have the necessary experience.

He also, as Livi chief executive John Ward told BBC Scotland, wanted to avoid “embarrassment to the club and to him.”

The self-awareness and modesty is clear.

He’s spent years working his way up and earning the right for his past to be left in the past.

This job is his reward, and no-one who’s paid attention to how he’s conducted himself in recent years would begrudge him it.

St. Johnstone v Livingston - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership
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Martindale stands as a shining example of how to rehabilitate yourself.

His decision to wait until he felt he had the requisite experience has been borne out by Livingston’s superb form. Consecutive draws against the Scottish champions in recent days have extended their unbeaten run to 10 matches and lifted the Lions to fifth in the table.

15 years ago Martindale was no-one’s idea of a role model, and he would have been entitled to think his chances of success in Scottish football were at an end.

By displaying a willingness to show remorse, change, learn from others, put the work in and grow as a person, he’s shown others who’ve made wrong decisions that it needn’t be a barrier to leading a fulfilling life.

That Martindale has to feel worried about this test in the first place is unjust. Any finding that suggests he’s not fit and proper would be scandalous.

The man has turned his life around, and there are far worse role models out there for young people.

Scottish football can learn a lot from David Martindale.

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