Explaining why a Scottish Premiership side have signed four left-backs this summer

Livingston have been very busy in the summer transfer market as David Martindale has brought in 11 new recruits to offset the loss of several key first-team members this summer, including Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Jon Guthrie, Julien Serrano, Robby McCrorie and Scott Robinson.

Livingston manager David Martindale has been a busy man this summer. Picture: SNS

Among those 11 there have been a few curious moves. First is the addition (and rapid subtraction) of striker Joel Nouble, who joined from Aldershot Town on a two-year contract (with the option of a third) and was immediately loaned out to Arbroath for the 2021/22 season. It’s the kind of deal we often see with young players, but Nouble is in his mid-20s. We can only presume there is something Martindale sees in the former National League forward but doesn’t think he’s quite ready to be chucked into the deep end of the Scottish Premiership and is looking to see him progress at Gayfield in the same manner as young Lions attacker Jack Hamilton did last season.

But what really stands out is the volume of players coming into the club who can play left-back. There have been four signed in total. Cristian Montano joins from Port Vale, Sean Kelly from Falkirk, James Penrice from Partick Thistle and Adam Lewis have been brought in on loan from Liverpool. That seems… excessive. Especially when Jackson Longridge, the player who ended last campaign as the first-choice left-back, is still at the club.

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However, from what we’ve saw so far in pre-season and the club’s Premier Sports Cup campaign, Martindale has a plan for each and every one of these players – and it doesn’t involve playing at full-back.

Montano may have played the majority of last season in defence in England’s League Two, but he has plenty of experience playing on the left wing where his penchant for dribbling and goalscoring abilities could make him an exciting addition for the Livingston supporters.

Lewis has played almost exclusively as a left-back in his young career, either with Liverpool’s youth sides or in loan moves to Amiens and Plymouth Argyle, but Martindale is trying to convert the England youth international into a centre-midfielder. That’s where he’s played so far in pre-season and, though performances have been a little spotty, you can see the justification in the position switch. He’s got a terrific range of passing and is a creative talent, while he lacks dribbling ability and some of the defensive tools required to avoid being a liability at that end of the park.

Penrice was originally looked upon as an attacking full-back when he first broke into the Thistle side, though this was eventually reappraised and he spent much of last season's successful League One title-chasing campaign in the engine room. And Sean Kelly, known as a burly yet mobile left-sided defender at St Mirren and Ross County, has been added as centre-back cover.

Martindale has done some things in his team building which are outside the norm, but we’ve come to expect the unexpected from the Livingston head coach and, given the club’s success since he became heavily involved in the day-to-day management, should we even be doubting him?

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