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Marvin Bartley reflects on being released by non-league side ahead of cup final

Rangers v Livingston – Scottish Premiership – Ibrox Stadium
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

When Livingston last won the League Cup in 2004, Marvin Bartley was about to be released by Burnham and told he was not good enough for the Southern League.

After three more years in the non-league game, Bartley made his name under Eddie Howe at Bournemouth and Burnley before going on to major success in Scotland.

Bartley has already played in a League Cup final with Hibernian, where he also won Championship and Scottish Cup winners’ medals.

Now the 34-year-old is looking to add another piece of silverware to his haul as Livingston take on St Johnstone in Sunday’s Betfred Cup final.

The midfielder’s journey is typical of the sort of adversity many in the Livingston team have overcome to achieve a string of impressive results with the club.

“That manager released me and now he is manager of an Under-10s team or something,” Bartley said. “That shows how much he knew.

“Back then I was getting released and told I wasn’t good enough to make it.

“I actually spoke to one of the boys I played with at Burnham about a month ago an he just said ‘the determination you had to kick on after being told you weren’t good enough at that level, you will never make it, to kick on and have the career you have had is testament to yourself’.

“But I have never thought about it too much, I will probably do that when I retire. But I am one of those people who always strive to be the best version of Marvin Bartley I can be, and lucky enough it’s taken me to some big games and winning some competitions.

“I would never have thought this was going to happen to someone like me – a kid from Reading, brought up in a single-parent home – these sort of things don’t happen. So hopefully I can add to the story on Sunday.”

The former Leyton Orient player added: “You are always going to get bosses who tell you you are not good enough to do something. But self-belief is the most important thing. I never stopped believing in what I could do.

“And I say to young players now, some managers will say you are not good enough but another manager will love you.

“At 18 I was released by a manager at Burnham who said I wasn’t good enough, and then Eddie Howe signed me for Burnley, one of the best young managers about.

“Football is full of opinions but the only opinion that really matters is the one within yourself.”

While Bartley’s story is inspirational enough, he admits David Martindale’s route to the cup final is almost unbelievable.

The Livi manager spent much of 2004 in prison after being arrested for his involvement in organised crime, before rehabilitating himself through education and football coaching, initially on a voluntary basis for the club.

“If you put a film on and this was the story you would say ‘come on, make it a bit more realistic’,” Bartley said.

“What he has achieved from having a chequered past and an extremely difficult past to where he is now, not only as a manager but a man, is testament to him and the people who helped him get where he is now.

“It would have been so easy when he came out of prison to go back down that route. Imagine going from the money he would have been earning to being a volunteer. That takes some serious mental strength. Always people would be trying to drag you back.

“Davie doesn’t think about that, he is so level-headed. All he concentrates on is shouting at us.”