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Livingston boss David Martindale vows to help new Russian signing Ivan Konovalov

David Martindale has welcomed his new Russian goalkeeper (Jane Barlow/PA)
David Martindale has welcomed his new Russian goalkeeper (Jane Barlow/PA)

David Martindale has assured Livingston’s new Russian goalkeeper Ivan Konovalov he will be there to support him through any issues surrounding the conflict involving his homeland.

The 27-year-old agreed a deal to move to the cinch Premiership club last month and, after a protracted process to complete the transfer, he joined up with the squad this week.

His arrival at Livingston has coincided with Russia declaring war on Ukraine, and Martindale explained that the goalkeeper has family near the border between the two nations.

“He’s a professional sportsman and he’s doing his job,” said Martindale when asked about the impact the situation was having on his new signing.

“I can only speak to him as much as I can so I’ve told him to keep me up to date as much as possible. I know he’s got family at the border where a lot of this is happening so I’m just relying on Ivan keeping me up to date.”

Konovalov, who joined from Rubin Kazan, is set to be in the Lions squad for the first time as a substitute for Saturday’s trip to Dundee.

Martindale’s plan is to use him as a number two for the rest of this season, with a view to him potentially becoming first-choice next term if the highly-regarded Max Stryjek, who is out of contract in the summer, is headhunted by another club.

Explaining how the transfer of the only Russian player in Scotland’s top tier came about, Martindale said: “I’ve got two or three Russian agents I often spent a lot of time talking with every window.

“Nothing had ever really come to fruition before because if you’re coming from the Russian Premier League, you’re probably not looking to come to Livingston with the finances we offer.

“Ivan’s case was a bit different. He’s played in the Russian Premier League but he found himself out of the team.

“It was one that whetted my appetite. I watched lots of footage of him, spent a few hours talking to him on Zoom and also got a glowing reference from his goalie coach at Rubin Kazan, who is now Russia’s goalie coach, so we managed to entice him to the UK. He’s got one eye on the European market.

“He’s come to us in the January window so he has a chance to transition in time for next season. We’ve needed a number two goalkeeper this season and he can do that no problem, but the five or six-month adaptation period will be huge for him going into the summer.

“He’s not coming to sit on the bench but he’s got to work extremely hard to get in the team.

“If Max keeps playing the way he’s been playing, I don’t believe he’ll be here in the summer so I’ve got an ideal replacement sitting on the bench. If Max is still here in the summer, Ivan needs to go and try and take the gloves off Max. Healthy competition is good for the squad.”

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