Gary Holt has no interest in the ins and outs of Kenny Miller’s shock departure from Livingston. On being confirmed as Miller’s replacement yesterday, Holt, who has signed a one-year rolling contract, is simply focused on making up for lost time following two years out of the game.
Great things were predicted when Holt took Falkirk to within a point of the Premiership play-off in 2014. But he left later that summer after just over a year in charge to join the coaching staff at Norwich City. It’s been a long, sometimes anxious road back to being the No 1 again.
Of course, some claim he still won’t be his own man, even after being named the new head coach at Livingston. David Martindale, blamed in some quarters for Miller’s quick exit, remains assistant head coach. Holt welcomes Martindale’s influence.
“I do indeed,” he said. “I get on well with Davie. We have spoken before. We had contact before. We have mutual friends in the game and socially as well. He sings off the same hymn sheet. He has the same work ethic and wants to do well and wants the team to do well.”
Holt’s links to Livingston extend back a long way, to when the club played at plain old Almondvale stadium.
Holt, then establishing himself in the Kilmarnock midfield, featured in a match to inaugurate the Almondvale floodlights in November 1995. “We got gubbed,” he recalls. Indeed they did, with Livingston, then in the bottom tier under Jim Leishman, triumphing 5-2.
While Holt follows in the footsteps of Miller at what is now known as the Tony Macaroni Arena, he won’t assume all his responsibilities. Holt, now 45, has not played since winding up a distinguished career, including Scotland caps and a Scottish Cup winner’s medal with Kilmarnock, at Lowestoft Town eight years ago. More relevantly, perhaps, he has not managed since leaving Falkirk to become a first-team coach at Norwich. He has not held any post in football since his return to Carrow Road ended two years ago under Alex Neil. Holt wanted to try his luck again as a manager.
“It was the choice we took as a family,” he said. “I wanted to get out there and be the No 1 again. I liked being an assistant and coach but I like being a manager better. So that’s why the conscious decision was taken.
“It also gave me a chance to finish my Pro-licence, which was good. Don’t get me wrong – did I want to be back working sooner? Yes I did. I had a couple of offers I turned down. It was not the right time. It was too quick. I then started to do some coach education work with the SFA. I enjoyed that. It was another string to my bow, coaching the coaches. It was just about being patient. But the patience wears thin after a while. You see other people getting jobs and you’re thinking, was it the right choice?”
Holt’s name was linked to Livingston prior to Miller being confirmed as player-manager in June. He has not had long to wait for the chance to prove to Livi they got it right, eventually.
“Hopefully I prove they made the right decision and we made the right decision as a family to pursue my dream of being a No 1 again,” he said.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he added. “It’s the horrible side of football. Sometimes you have to wait for someone to get the sack or lose their job. That’s the not nice part but it’s given me a chance.
“I know I was linked earlier in the summer. To then come in eight weeks later is quite surreal. But I won’t take it lightly. Anyone who knows me knows my work ethic and what I am about. Hopefully Livingston and myself will be in each other’s company for a long time to come.”
He has already declared Miller’s time in charge as ancient history. The former Rangers striker stayed just seven weeks and took charge of seven games, only two of which were lost. His departure has still not been adequately explained. Holt claims to be one of the few not in the least curious about events preceding his arrival.
“I have already told the players I have no interest,” he said. “I am not caring. What’s happened has happened. It’s about what we do now. It is a clean slate for everyone.”
Still based in Ayrshire, Holt will commute from Kilmarnock each day. The drive has already offered plenty time to reflect. Once again he has accepted a manager’s post in dramatic circumstances. After taking over at Falkirk, following Steven Pressley’s departure for Coventry City, he took his bow at Hampden in a Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs. Up 3-0 at half-time, Falkirk eventually succumbed 4-3.
“I did think at half-time ‘this managerial lark is easy’,” he said. “At full-time I was ready to give it up.”
His first game for Livingston is tomorrow against St Mirren, their fellow new boys in the top flight, in Paisley. He may even face Miller, who is being linked with a move to Alan Stubbs’ side. “That’s got nothing to do with me,” said Holt.
“Hopefully this Saturday is not the same as that first game at Hampden,” he added. “I will take the same performance, the same exciting match but a different outcome.”