David Martindale is hoping the “infectious” Jamie Brandon will start to show his quality at Livingston as he prepares to return following a six-month injury lay-off.
The 25-year-old defender has been sidelined with a groin issue but played 45 minutes of a bounce match in midweek and could be back in the squad for Saturday’s trip to Pittodrie, where he played his last game for the Lions in late August.
Brandon, whose time at first club Hearts was badly disrupted by injuries, has managed only four early-season sub appearances for Livingston since joining from Morton last summer.
“He’s had a really stop-start start to his Livingston career,” said manager Martindale. “Jamie, to his own detriment, trains at 100 per cent every day, knock or no knock. Just coming back from injury or not, he trains at 100 per cent.
“It’s sometimes to his detriment but it’s one of the aspects of Jamie’s character I really like because he’s infectious when he goes on the park. He wants to win the ball back, he likes a tackle, he runs, he presses, he’s aggressive in the way he plays on and off the ball.
“I’ll need to watch how I use Jamie over the next six weeks because if you let him loose it could be to his detriment.
“He’s a great lad so I’m really looking forward to trying to integrate him back into first-team football but he’s been out a very long time so we need to be very careful in how we manage his return to first-team football.”
Right-back Brandon plays the same position as Lions captain Nicky Devlin but Martindale is adamant he will be given a chance to impress.
“It’s difficult because Nicky is the captain and has been very consistent, but I believe Jamie can play two or three positions,” said the manager. “He can play right centre-mid and he can play further up as well so he will get the opportunity but we just need to get his body a bit more robust to the intensity of training and playing with Livingston in the Premiership.
“There’s no doubt in my mind Jamie has the ability to be a Premiership footballer, that’s why I brought him into the building.
“He’s been hampered by injury so it’s very hard to look at his progression. Ultimately he needs to be robust and get a bit of consistency in his game time.
“He got that at Morton and we all saw what he could do but it’s just about trying to keep him injury-free and then give him a platform to go and become a Premiership footballer.”
Martindale is optimistic that Tom Parkes, Livi’s other long-term absentee, will be fit to play later this term as the defender steps up his recovery from a knee injury that has kept him out for the entire campaign.
“Tom’s got a bit of swelling behind his knee, which was to be expected,” he said. “He’s very much like Jamie, a lot of old-school mentality and work ethic there and it’s holding him back because the closer he gets, the harder he works but the harder he works, it puts a lot more strain on his body. I’m confident we’ll get him back before the end of the season.”