Liam Buchanan on Livingston: Hopkin, title triumph & Champ hopes

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Life is good for Livingston fans right now. The Lions secured the Ladbrokes League 1 title on Saturday following a 2-1 victory over Alloa Athletic in front of a bumper crowd at the Tony Macaroni Arena. And nobody has played a bigger part in that success than Liam Buchanan.

The 32-year-old is enjoying the form of his life right now, netting 25 times in all competitions this season.

But when Ladbrokes News caught up with him, the prolific hitman was quick to heap praise on those around him, as we talked attacking talents, life under David Hopkin and that goal at Stair Park…

Ladbrokes News: We’ll start with the league title. Livingston became League 1 champions at the weekend, following that win over Alloa – in front of a bumper crowd of 1,099 fans. What was it like to experience that game, and how did you celebrate afterwards?

Liam Buchanan: It was great. We’d obviously known for a week or so that a point would be enough to clinch the title, but obviously we did it in style by beating the club closest to us. So that made it extra special.

We went out as a team to celebrate afterwards, and made sure it was an enjoyable night! There’s a real camaraderie within the squad, and it was nice to all get to celebrate together.

Doing it in style: Liam puts pressure on Alloa's Callum Waters during Saturday's title-clinching win

Doing it in style: Liam puts pressure on Alloa’s Callum Waters during Saturday’s title-clinching win

 

LN: You’re enjoying the best season of your career so far, with 20 goals in League 1, and 25 in all competitions. What do you think have been the main factors behind your success this year?

LB: I’d say continuous hard work, and the fact I’m open to still learning. Even though I’m 32 now, but I actually think the longer I’ve been in the game, the more I’ve improved and grown as a player.

The current set-up at Livi has also been a huge help. The manager [Hopkin] and his coaching staff are fantastic, and everyone in the squad has benefited from having them around. That’s reflected at 3pm on a Saturday!

LN: Among those goals have been some real crackers: your second in the 2-0 win at Brechin earlier this month, a couple of glorious goals in the 3-1 victory over Alloa Athletic and so on. If you had to choose a favourite from the campaign – which would you go for?

LB: I think those would all be up near the top, but I’d have to go with the goal I scored at Stranraer last month. It probably wasn’t the best in terms of quality, but with the way the league was going, it was a huge moment. We’d lost at home to East Fife the previous weekend, and getting that win at Stair Park was vital.

It came late on in the game [84th minute], and with Alloa not winning that day, it gave us all the momentum. It wasn’t the best of finishes, but it was certainly one of the biggest goals.

LN: You’ve been Livingston’s highest scorer this season, but you’ve also had the likes of Scott Pittman, Daniel Mullen and Nikolay Todorov chipping in with goals up front. What have those guys been like to play alongside?

LB: Danny’s been superb. We’ve formed a great partnership, and he’s a young guy who I think will kick on and have a really successful career.

Scott has been a huge part of why we’ve dominated games in midfield, and he’s chipped in with some vital goals. And ‘Toddy’ has slotted in brilliantly since joining on loan. Everyone’s done their part, and that’s been the key to our success.

That’s true all over the pitch. Liam Kelly – the young goalkeeper on loan from Rangers – has been magnificent. And then the likes of Declan Gallagher, Craig Halkett and Alan Lithgow in defence have given us a really solid foundation. It’s important to have guys who can score goals – but keeping them out is just as key.

Celebrating with 'Superb' Mullen following his goal in November's 2-1 victory over Airdrieonians

Celebrating with ‘superb’ Mullen following his goal in November’s 2-1 victory over Airdrieonians

 

LN: Your boss David Hopkin has done superb work in his first ever role as manager. What do you think has made David such a success at the club? And what’s he like to play under?

LB: He’s been great. I think he’s carried his traits as a player into management – that winning mentality and ability to get everyone fired up for games.

But the manager is also very meticulous in training. We always go into games with a very clear plan of how we’re going to win that match. He’s been with us for over a year, and you can see the difference in how we’re playing.

We’ve been good on the eye at times this season, but we’ve also learned when and how to grind results out, and that’s all been part of the gaffer’s game plans. In some games you have to roll your sleeves up, and in others, you can pass it about. We always know which we need to do, and all credit to the manager for that.

Eyes on the prizes: Buchanan and Hopkin scooped the best player & manager double in November

Eyes on the prizes: Buchanan and Hopkin scooped the best player & manager double in November

 

LN: You’re one of the more experienced players at Livi, but there’s plenty of young talent at the club, with the likes of Jackson Longridge, Jordan Sinclair, Nicky Cadden, and 17-year-old Matthew Knox, who’s broken into the side. Do you think those guys will continue to do the business in the Championship?

LB: Yeah, I don’t see why not. Jackson was with us in the Championship last season, but he’s grown as a player – and grown in confidence as well. So I think he’ll kick on again in the coming year.

Matthew is a really exciting talent. He was the youngest guy ever to play for Livingston when he made his debut, which tells you a lot about his potential. If he applies himself, there’s no doubt he’ll go on to great things.

And those other young guys you’ve mentioned, they’re all more than capable of making the step up.

LN: There are four games left between now and the end of the season – beginning with a trip to Stenhousemuir on Saturday. Obviously the pressure’s off with the title won, but do you think you can keep up the level of results and performance which have seen you win the last five games?

LB: The boys are all hungry to keep that win going, so I don’t see why not. We’re in a winning habit right now, and the gaffer has made the point that training will still be the same, so we’re going to be as competitive as ever.

So I certainly don’t see us letting up at all. We’ll be right at it until the end of the season, and can hopefully give the fans a bit of extra excitement as well!

Destination Ochilview: Livi looking to maintain their momentum at Stenhousemuir this weekend

Destination Ochilview: Livi looking to maintain their momentum at Stenhousemuir this weekend

 

LN: I’m sure thoughts will have turned to life back in the Championship. Based on how this season’s gone – what do you think is a realistic aim for Livi back in the second-tier?

LB: I think we’ve handled ourselves really well this season, but the Championship is another step up. We’re capable of competing at that level with the boys we have in the squad right now, and you just have to look at the likes of Greenock Morton this season for inspiration.

Nobody really expected them to do as well as they have since coming back up from League 1 – finishing fifth last season, and they could still go up again this year. Hopefully that’s an example we can copy.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.