MARK Burchill has seldom stuck around anywhere for too long during his playing career. But the former Celtic and Scotland striker, named as part of the new Livingston management team yesterday, intends his first step on the coaching ladder to be an extensive and successful one.
Still only 32, Burchill will become a registered player at Livingston as well as assistant manager to the club’s former head of youth development Richie Burke, who has been in caretaker charge since Gareth Evans’ dismissal last month.
Burke, 51, becomes Livingston’s 11th permanent manager in the past nine years since the departure of League Cup-winning boss Davie Hay. It is a turnover rate indicative of the turmoil the West Lothian club has experienced during a period in which they slumped from third place in the SPL to financial collapse and demotion to the Third Division through a series of ownership changes.
For Burchill, the opportunity to work at his home town club was enough to make him turn his back on contract offers in both Cyprus and Thailand where he has spent the last three years of his career. He is determined to help bring much needed stability to Livingston.
“The plan has got to be to get the club back into the top flight and trying to get to cup finals again,” said Burchill. “I’m a Livingston boy, I’ve lived here most of my life. Everyone who has been at the club in the past has had short-term plans. The owners have thought short-term to try and make a quick buck, the managers have thought short-term to get in and get out.
“That can’t be the way. Hopefully me and Richie are going to put in a real foundation for this club, producing good players, playing some good football and hopefully winning games. If we do that, we won’t be too far wrong.”
Burchill initially applied for the manager’s role but is more than content to be No 2 to Burke, the two men having previously met on a coaching course. “That was three or four years ago and I actually said to Richie that if I ever got into management, he could maybe be my assistant,” revealed Burchill. “I was on the shortlist for manager here but the board felt I was too inexperienced for it now.
“So I think keeping the continuity of Richie being manager with me coming in as his assistant is the perfect match. I could have played on in Thailand for another three or four years, I also had contract offers to go back to Cyprus, but this is a fantastic opportunity for me at this stage.
“I had thought I’d have to wait until I was 34 or 35 to get into the coaching side. But when I saw Ian Murray get the manager’s job at Dumbarton earlier this season, it gave me a wee jolt. I’ve known Ian since we were ten years old and I thought ‘If Nid can do it, why can’t I?’
“I got disillusioned with Scottish football, with the way I was getting told to play. That’s why I left. I was a small striker getting told to chase long balls. I wish I’d done it four or five years earlier. I would have been in a better state of mind to really know what to do. But I feel the two or three years abroad were worth seven or eight in Scotland, in terms of what I learned.
“Richie and me have the same philosophy, he has worked abroad, too. We want to play the same type of football and hopefully we can make it work at Livingston. I’ve told the players here they are playing some good football, but we are going to take it to the next level. It’s got to be quicker, it’s got to be more purposeful, there has to be a reason behind it. It’s not about just passing for passing’s sake, it’s about winning games.”
Burke, who was on the books of both Everton and Liverpool as a teenager before moving to the USA, where he played for Washington Diplomats before going into coaching with DC United and Northern Virginia Royals, has been with Livingston since last summer when he was recruited by their Youth Foundation. “I always had aspirations of being a manager in America or elsewhere in the professional game,” said Burke. “I didn’t think it would happen so quickly at Livingston. I was quite happy working under John Hughes and John Collins here. Those two were great. I owe them a great debt of thanks for embracing me and taking me on board.
“Now Burchy is on board and we have a great relationship. He is going to bring something that is a little bit different as well as the playing aspect and we can’t wait to get going. For me it really is a new era at this club.”
The duo will take charge for the first time tomorrow night when Livingston have a home fixture against Hamilton in the First Division. Burchill hopes to also make his playing debut in the match but that is dependent on international clearance being secured in time.