I’m almost certain that when fan Iain Hall made the comparison between current Livingston player Scott Pittman and former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Guillermo Amor he did so with his tongue nestled deep within his cheek. It was however perhaps the most amusing amongst a number of responses from fans and former player’s alike when I went calling for thoughts on the Spanish midfielder’s three game spell in West Lothian.
It’s strange to think that back in January 2003 the fate of a player with 37 caps for La Roja and over 300 appearances for the Catalan giants would be in the hands of somebody as peak Scottish football as Jim Leishman but the affable Fife legend had only recently sent another high profile star, in the shape of former Argentina international Sergio Berti, packing. The 32-year-old Argentine winger leaving the club in disgrace having never played a minute following a spitting incident involving team-mate Richard Brittain during training.
It had been over six months since Amor had kicked a ball in anger after leaving Villarreal at the end of the 2001/02 La Liga season and so, perhaps with Berti’s antics still fresh in the mind, it was an impressive part of due diligence by Leishman to first insist that the highly decorated Benidorm-born player completed a trial, with Amor’s willingness to participate also a testament to the humbleness of the player.
The then 35-year-old, who was being looked at as potential cover for long term injury victim Stuart Lovell, did enough to impress during a week long spell and, with the support of his family back home, he would soon find himself on the bench at Firhill alongside a 19-year-old Colin McMenamin. At the time both Livi and Partick Thistle were engaged in a multi-team SPL survival battle that ultimately didn’t matter as a result of Falkirk’s then Brockville home not meeting the stadium entry requirements at the time.
Along with Amor the current Stenhousemuir boss made his debut that day and he speaks fondly of his time beside the Spaniard, “I scored my first senior goal that night and I loved his stories about playing with Stoichkov and Koeman. He was a gentleman.’ and McMenamin wasn’t the only youngster in the squad to be enamoured with the former Spain international. Fellow 19-year-old Scott McLaughlin reminisced that he was, “An absolute gentleman who shook hands with every young player each morning. A class act.”
Livingston would win that game 3-1 with McMenamin getting a debut goal but it would be the half time introduction of the elegant Amor that was attributed to ultimately turning the game and such was his influence he would start the following week’s match against Kilmarnock. His impact on this occasion though would be diminished as the Ayrshire side comfortably ran out 4-0 winners at Almondvale with the Spaniard, who had been sitting in what in modern parlance would be called the quarterback role, replaced with 65 minutes on the clock.
He returned to the bench for the trip to Celtic Park the following week coming on during a 2-1 defeat but that would be the end of his involvement in the side as more established first-team players would return from injury with his time on the pitch as whirlwind as the fanfare that surrounded his arrival.
The Lions would go on to finish 8th and Amor would be released at the end of that season as, with reported debts in excess of £8m, Livngston started on their path towards what would be the first of many financial problems over the course of the following decade.
From engaging with former players he is clearly still fondly remembered even if for those in the stands the hoopla never quite translated into the kind of performances on the pitch you dream of when a player of that pedigree arrives.
Striker David Bingham, who played during Amor’s time at the club and scored 50 times for Livi during a five year spell I think best sums his stint up, “He wasn’t at the the club very long but in training he oozed class! Legs had gone by then but with his technical ability I’m not sure it mattered as long as your team was in possession.”
After his release he would bring his playing career to an end making his way back to Catalonia to take up a role at La Masia overseeing the progression of the world-renowned academies young talent before a two year spell in Australia where he led A-League side Adelaide United to a Premiership title. He’s now back at Barcelona again working within the academy set up as well as taking on the role of Director of Institutional and Sporting Relations for the first team.
For all his honours, international acclaim and success as a coach, for some his spell in West Lothian never quite reached the heights that so many had hoped for and I’m sure, as he sips on a glass of cava, his other hand dragging a freshly barbecued Calçot through a punchy puddle of romesco sauce with the sun setting somewhere in the Catalonian campo he will no doubt be haunted by the fact that, when all is said and done, that for one fan at least, he was just a poor man’s Scott Pittman.