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Livingston boss Holt calls for expanded Ladbrokes Premiership

Livingston boss Gary Holt is worried familiarity is breeding contentment amongst Scotland’s Premiership footballers.

Now he has urged Scottish Professional Football League chiefs to expand the 12-team top flight and slash the number of times teams play each other in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

Holt’s Lions meet Hibernian for the second time this season at Easter Road on Saturday but with both sides on course for a top-six finish, they face the prospect of another two games before the campaign is out.

There could even have been a fifth showdown had Livi not crashed out of the William Hill Scottish Cup to Inverness, with the Highlanders instead progressing to face Jack Ross’ team in the last eight.

But four games against one team is still too much for Holt – who claims playing so many games against domestic rivals is diluting the league’s competitive edge.

The former Kilmarnock and Norwich midfielder said: “I’ve been battering on about bigger leagues for many a moon. I think we should expand.

“I think it should be home-and-away only. You’d get better quality and a better competition. You’d have a bigger chance of someone else winning the league.

“One hundred per cent it would improve the standard of Scottish football.

“You wouldn’t get that same familiarity amongst the teams. I had it when I was a player up here. I played Hearts seven times in one season because of cup games, replays and four in the league.

“You became best pals. I’d be saying to my opponent, ‘What you doing tonight, going for a meal? Oh great, I’ll see you later’.

“But down in England you only play home and away so that brings a wee bit of needle. If you catch me in a game I know my chance will come when we get you at home. It festers a wee bit and you get that edge.

“Up here you get to familiar with everybody.

“But expanding the league I think would improve the quality. If you look back through the years, the bigger the leagues, the better the quality and standard of player coming through.”

And Holt argues expanding the Premiership would encourage more teams to throw caution to the wind – and thinks Saturday’s trip to Easter Road will be the perfect example.

Livingston are flying high in fifth, although the Almondvale boss is refusing to get carried away about suggestions his side – who sit four points behind fourth-placed Aberdeen – could make a push for the Europa League slots.

But with both his team and Hibs – who sit a point behind – well clear of the relegation zone, he is expecting an entertaining affair with the pressure off.

“It’s going to be a great game,” he said. “It’s a bit surreal. Both sides have got a bit of freedom to go play football without the fear.

“Yeah we both want to win the game but it shouldn’t be tetchy. This isn’t a must-win or a must-not-lose scenario because of relegation or European places.

“Both teams have got a bit of freedom so I think it will be a bit similar to Hibs’ game down at Kilmarnock last week.

“When you watched that game back it looked like two good sides attacking each other and making a game of it. Hopefully we can do that on Saturday and get a positive result.”