It was April 2004. Just a few weeks earlier, Livingston had won the League Cup with a victory over Hibs. Nearly 17 years on, they have reached the final again – with Martindale at the helm.
For almost four of these 17 years, Martindale languished in prison after being sentenced to six-and-a-half years for drugs and money laundering offences. He shared a cell and was allowed out for just one hour a day. He vowed to change the man and did, via education – he completed a degree in construction project management – family and football, at Broxburn Athletic initially, and then with West Lothian neighbours Livingston.
Robert Wilson, the chairman of Livingston, knows all about Martindale’s worth. The morning after Sunday’s semi-final victory over St Mirren, Wilson, a livestock agent, was at St Boswells mart. Wilson and his board are always comfortable leaving Martindale in charge.
“He’s been the driving force for the success of the football club over the last five seasons,” Wilson said. “It’s not been me as chairman or anyone else – it’s him.
“If there is a job to be done, he does it. Need an electrician? He does it. A joiner? He does it.”
It’s for his prowess as a football coach that he has come to public attention once again, however, this time on the back pages rather than front. He has displayed leadership qualities by inspiring a group of footballers to be greater than the sum of their parts.
What use professional football if not as a vehicle offering the prospect of rehabilitation to those who have taken wrong turns? Is it simply entertainment, a business? Is it solely about glory or should it also perform a function within wider society?
These are questions for two people, both members of the SFA’s Professional Game Board. They will sit in judgment of David Paul Martindale, aged 46, at a hearing on Tuesday.
The case has attracted greater interest with each win Livingston have earned under their new manager. It is Martindale’s latest attempt to satisfy the SFA’s criteria for being a “fit and proper person” – and what a distasteful term that is. Don’t worry if you missed the last time he faced this particular ordeal. Most people did. Martindale’s bid was rejected but he carried on as coach regardless.
The SFA’s powers are limited with regards stopping anyone working and were they to deliver Livingston and Martindale bad news, it isn’t necessarily a hammer blow. Martindale can continue as normal. He can be at Hampden on February 28 with his team for the Betfred Cup final against St Johnstone.
Understandably, however, he is desperate to obtain official approval. It would be another step towards redemption, a journey which, his chairman suggested, could and should be made into a film. A proceeds from crime order hampered his previous bid to gain SFA approval. It is understood he has since paid back a further sum to the authorities so that could – and should – help alter perceptions. One only hopes that it does.