After they tell you to go to rehab

Date: 2nd February 2021

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

I have never been to rehab. As an addict who is on the cusp of 30 years sobriety, I sometime marvel that I have, so far, avoided it. I have, however,  done some of the therapy.

Rehabilitation is a concept that I believe is tough for people to contemplate and never more so when we talk of those people who graduate from what many still believe is the Academy of Crime: prison.

Aside from the visions we have of televisions in every room, fraternising with the old lags who teach new tricks and how it does nothing for human beings but turn them from petty thieves to major players in the ‘hood, people can be very sniffy about prison. When people turn their lives around but do so quietly and without a major charitable marathon, swimming of the Atlantic or walking up the equivalent of the Himalayas to show that they have “changed” people are apt to scoff.

We tend to like our leaders and our managers and our icons to have an unsullied past or a degree of experience prior to taking on important roles – a tricky tight rope. We talk of role models and how they should exhibit he qualities very few of us have, but for our young we wish to follow.

When challenged by someone who has an unsavoury episode in their past, to define how we should embrace role models, we cringe and start to raise the bar.

It is understandable.

After all, in all walks of life we are looking to create some form of positivity for our young, for the people who may need it and anything that gets in the way of that needs to be challenged and made good by asking the right questions or ensuring the balance and checks that are in place are rigorously followed.

But there are , for some, always doubts remaining.

In January David Martindale, the Livingston boss, who has led his team to an exceptional run of form, faced a “fit and proper” test because of his time in prison. It was an episode in his life that Martindale has never hidden and that he has been exceptionally honest with regards to. His conviction was nearly 20 years ago and since it, he has been the type of role model that we should all embrace.

But the media sometimes cannot leave alone.

So, during the week it emerged that another “ex con”, Gordon Beurksen advised him in his test. He advised him, according to the report, on “how to pass it.” The implication is clear – somehow, Martindale got dodgy advice as to how to hoodwink the SFA. That they go on to quote Livingston in being very open as to the advice they received, I wonder if the source quoted was aware of just how his view would be used? Given that Craig Whyte was allowed to buy Rangers, it could be suggested that beating the SFA in such a test is rather commonplace.

But then again, we should allow for learning and perhaps the Whyte episode has led to them being ever more vigilant.

We should, however, be aware that being a boss of a Premiership club tends to be a short term affair. As the Kilmarnock boss leaves by mutual consent, Neil Lennon faces increasing pressure and the results at Tannadice open the door for questions, we should remember that when the good times stop and the tough times begin, how shall Martindale be viewed then?

I think we can all guess, as the chants of a terrace are never that far away form the back pages of some tabloids: often against the wishes of the journalists.

To a former MP, who questioned that as a Community club, he was deeply troubled about the past of advisor, Beurkens, perhaps a thought. As a community club, working in some of the deepest parts of West Lothian, should the message be one of rehabilitation of permanent condemnation? Suggesting that Livingston FC has connections with former criminals, and this might be a bad thing suggests that for many people working in communities of extreme deprivation and drug abuse that you should only have fit and proper people leading it, fit and proper people in it and fit and proper people benefitting from it, is the next step in a daft game. Some people move on and Martindale has clearly done that. He paid his price. When results start going against him, we shall see just how forgiving the game is. For now, we can relish his success and reap the benefits of the value of his contribution and a truly inspiring positive news story for the game. But, for me, David Martindale was always a fit and proper person. What happens next will prove one way or the other if that is right. I don’t mind the scrutiny but do mind the snide implications. Only time shall prove me and the SFA right or wrong.


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