Hegarty locked out at Livingston as club owner called to account by SFL

LIVINGSTON'S row with Paul Hegarty grew yet more unseemly yesterday when the suspended manager was turned away at the door by the First Division club after reporting for work.

Assistant manager Graeme Robertson, who joined Hegarty in being suspended by the financially troubled club on Saturday night after a 1-0 defeat to Partick Thistle, was also barred from gaining entry to Almondvale. The pair were accompanied by a trade union representative.

Although Hegarty has stressed he remains in the dark regarding the reasons for the suspension, a letter sent by the players to the Scottish Football League is believed to have caused agitation among the club's Italian owners. In the letter players relayed their dismay at regular late payments of wages.

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As a consequence, Livingston chairman Angelo Massone has been asked to attend the next SFL management committee meeting on 7 May. No further comment was issued by the club yesterday as Massone remained in Italy. Director Tommasso Angelini did not return a call from The Scotsman.

David Hay, Angelini's father-in-law, is currently in America but is expected to return to Scotland tomorrow and take over the managerial reins again for the final two games of the season, against Ross County and Queen of the South, and Massone has said it is "99 per cent certain" that Hay will be in charge next season. He led the club to their finest hour in 2004, when Livingston defeated Hibs in the CIS Cup final at Hampden. Coincidentally, a special evening to commemorate the club's "greatest ever manager" will be held at the club a week on Friday.

Things have been bleak for Livingston since relegation from the Scottish Premier League in 2006. Hay will be the third manager at the club this season alone, with Roberto Landi having been sacked after just five months in charge in December. Hegarty, his successor, has had his tenure terminated after just under five months. He remains mystified by the decision but Massone claims the reason is "a private matter at the club".

Hints of civil war at the club have emerged following reports that skipper Chris Innes was asked to take training yesterday in Hegarty's absence, and refused. Italian fitness coach Nazzareno Salvatori supervised the session instead. Hegarty was also prevented from speaking to his players, and was told he would not be able to retrieve his boots and training gear from his office.

"I am still in the dark as to why I am suspended," said Hegarty last night. "My legal advisors told me to go to Livingston to do my job as normal. I turned up and they decided not to let me in. So I turned back again. They said they will be back in touch.

"A lady who works at the club under the auspices of the chairman said I wasn't being allowed in. I said I had important documentation owned by the club, to do with players' contracts. If I am not being allowed to continue in my job then I said I would like to give it back to the rightful owners. The club said they would be in touch with me for an appropriate time to hand it in."

He added: "They've taken a stance and I can understand that. I also asked if I could speak with the players and thank them for their efforts and for the performances since I have come to the club. They said not at this time. So it was left like that."

Brian Johnstone, from the GMB union, said after Hegarty and Robertson were turned away: "The two lads have been suspended with no reason given and we find that quite strange.

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"We will be contacting the SFL and the SFA to get a meeting as soon as possible regarding the conduct of Livingston Football Club."

Scottish League Managers' Association chairman Alex Smith offered stiff backing to Hegarty, who he said had been the victim of ill-fortune throughout his career as a manager. Interim appointments at both Aberdeen and Dundee United also turned sour during difficult times for both clubs.

"I have spoken to Paul and his representative. We will be going to the SFL and Scottish Football Association to get the whole thing cleared up," said Smith. "Paul is shattered. He has had a few blows in his managerial career and this is another one. He does not know what he has done wrong. He has worked away there at Livingston. He has probably got into a few arguments about unpaid wages and things like that. But it's a situation that is not of his own making.

"A manager should be left to manage the club. The situation here has not been satisfactory at all. One thing you can be sure of is that Paul and Graeme will be doing things properly. It will be done by the book. The SFA and SFL will be asked to look into it.

"Football management is like every other form of occupation. It is a job of work. There are contracts, rules and regulations."

Smith had not spoken to Hay but imagined the 61-year-old will be distressed by the turn of events. "He will be filled-in on things when he comes home," said Smith. "There's a definitely a conflict of emotions for him. But he is a football man and will want the club to fulfil their remaining fixtures."