Jack Ross: Livi have set example he would like to follow at Hibs

Livingston threw down the gauntlet when they brought in Efe Ambrose.

Hibs boss Jack Ross has paid tribute to Livingston

Fully embroiled in the battle to, initially, safeguard their top-six status and then, ultimately, push for a European place, the West Lothian club’s recruitment of an international defender who is used to silverware and Champions League football, was a statement of intent.

With little between a cluster
of teams in the middle of the Premiership table, there is plenty to fight for in this campaign and the latest addition served as a warning to teams around them that they will not limit their ambitions.

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“I’m sure they’ll see it like that but at the same time they’ve been having a good season so [Efe] will probably find it hard to get into their team as well. I don’t see them changing too much when they have a good, reliable, hard-working squad,” said Hibs’ Paul Hanlon, who, along with his Leith colleagues, has yet to get the better of Gary Holt’s men this term.

The 2-2 draw at Easter Road in October was followed by a 2-0 defeat away from home during the festive period, leaving Jack Ross’ men trailing one place behind Livingston.

A victory for the home side this afternoon would alter that pecking order, though. But Hibernian know they will have to work hard for any reward against guys who 
have shown little hint of an inferiority complex as they fought their way up the leagues and proved their worth in the Premiership.

Already punching above their weight, with a squad rich in players who have seen them through the rise from lower division to top tier, Livi consolidated their position among the best and are pushing on this season.

And while the likes of Ambrose and fellow former Hibee Marvin Bartley add experience, today’s opponents offer more for rivals to worry about, with Easter Road boss Ross citing them as an inspiration to lower-league operators.

He was manager at rivals Alloa as the West Lothian side romped to the 2016/17 League One title and was at St Mirren as both teams earned promotion from the Championship the following term.

“There are loads of different paths you can take to being a top-flight player, I know that first hand,” said Ross. “It is nice if your career just goes in an upward trajectory or if you can start high and stay in that position but the reality is there are lots of different ways and guys like [Livingston attacker] Scott Pittman are an example of that. He’s a guy who has played juniors, a level I played at, and has gone back and is playing in the Premiership and that is pleasing. It offers hope to other players.

“I had a playing career, where, although I had been at Dundee, I really started properly with Clyde in the lower leagues and then as a manager with Dumbarton and Alloa so I know first hand that there is quality in those leagues: players, coaches and managers.

“But it is difficult to get the opportunity at the higher levels. You have got to be good enough but equally you have got to be given the opportunity. So, to see so many of the players that have been on that journey with Livingston still there is pleasing. The fact they are enjoying being successful Premiership players is testament not just to their ability but also their strength of character that they have been able to go on that journey.

“I am a big advocate of that. It is close to what we are looking to do. It is an area which I’m not saying we have neglected but going forward we need to make sure we cover all bases because there are good players down the leagues.”