John Hughes in the frame as Livingston sack Gary Bollan

FORMER Hibs manager John Hughes was last night set for a return to football as he emerged as the front-runner to be named the new Livingston boss after the surprise sacking of Gary Bollan and his assistant Scott Paterson.

Winning two titles in two seasons was not enough to keep Bollan in his job in West Lothian as the First Division club announced that they had decided on a “change of management” and ended the former Rangers, Dundee United and St Johnstone defender’s two-and-a-half years at the club.

The parting is believed to be based on the club’s wish to utilise more of their home-grown talent from their successful Youth Development programme, with Bollan believed to favour more experienced players.

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Bollan was appointed after the club was taken over by a consortium headed by former Cowdenbeath chairman Gordon McDougall in the summer of 2009.

His new job changed almost instantly as Livingston were placed in the Third Division as a result of the financial troubles they encountered under the ownership of Angelo Massone.

Bollan led his side to the Third Division title in his first year and repeated that success in the Second Division last season. They currently sit in sixth place in the First Division, seven points ahead of bottom-placed Ayr United, although they have not won in their past five games.

A club statement said, “Although initial success has been achieved on the field, it became clear to the board more recently that a change of management is required to deliver our long-standing vision of the football club’s operations.”

Head of youth at the club, and former Cowdenbeath manager, Brian Welsh will assume responsibility for first-team matters on an interim basis. However, his time in charge will be short as he is leaving the club for the United States later this month.

McBookie.com make Hughes their 3-1 favourite to land the job, with Jim Jefferies priced at 4-1 and Jimmy Calderwood 7-1.