The Scottish football season kicks off today with the opening round of the Petrofac Training Cup, and last season’s winning manager Mark Burchill is a firm fan of the knockout tournament.
In fact, the one-time Scotland striker reckons that the cup saved his Livingston side from relegation and he is determined that Clyde are seen off today to start another run.
Burchill stepped up from his assistant manager’s role in West Lothian last December to replace John McGlynn but his team, who spent most of their last campaign in bottom place, had won only once in the 15 games leading up to the McDiarmid Park final showdown against fellow Championship strugglers Alloa.
The lift they took from their 4-0 success over the Wasps helped them not only avoid the drop but finish in eighth place and avoid the play-offs as well.
Burchill believes that the Petrofac success was key to their survival as it provided Livingston with a much-needed boost and, while some managers may see today’s ties as only slightly more competitive than pre-season friendlies, the 34-year-old is adamant that they are the first steps towards a prize worth securing.
Burchill said: “Winning the Petrofac Cup was really important to Livingston. It propelled us back into the relegation fight as it gave us two vital ingredients that had been missing – confidence and belief.
“We had been playing well but not scoring goals and not winning games. That little spark that you need to be successful was missing from our game but defeating Alloa gave us it back.
“The cup win played a big part in keeping us up. It came at the right time in the season and as it was such a high-profile occasion it brought the fans and the players together. The players had forgotten how good they were and the final brought it back to them.”
The benefits were seen quickly, with Burchill adding: “We went out and beat Falkirk on the Wednesday night afterwards and then came back from a goal down to defeat Cowdenbeath in a vital game the next weekend.
“I do not think we would have done that if we had not won on the Sunday.”
Livingston went on to draw with Rangers and defeat Raith Rovers as well as Queen of the South to secure their Championship place. Burchill added: “It was a really important part of last season and will hopefully be a really important part of this coming season as well but in a different way.”
“We have won it once and are looking to win it again but for the enjoyment of winning as opposed to kick-starting a survival bid.”
Burchill added: “We are the holders and we are out to defend the cup. In fact we are out to defend it with our lives.”
Livingston go into the game with a squad assembled by Burchill after the lifting of a SFA embargo which was placed on them due to their former majority shareholder Neil Rankine also having an interest in East Fife.
While that issue has been sorted, financial troubles remain but Burchill is upbeat and explained: “I am pleased with where we are squad-wise. I am delighted that we have been able to recruit so well after having the transfer embargo lifted.
“We have a couple more still to bring in so it has been a far better summer than it looked like being.”