Simon Donnelly: Ian Maxwell ‘ideal’ man to be next SFA chief

Partick Thistle general manager Ian Maxwell is a leading contender to be the new SFA chief executive. Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS
Partick Thistle general manager Ian Maxwell is a leading contender to be the new SFA chief executive. Picture: Sammy Turner/SNS
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That Ian Maxwell could ever emerge as a front-runner to be head honcho at Hampden would have seemed outlandish to Simon Donnelly when the pair were teenagers starting out there with Queen’s Park. Now, the former Celtic striker can see the Partick Thistle managing director as an ideal fit for the role of chief executive at the SFA.

Donnelly had cause to reflect on Maxwell’s journey yesterday as he promoted a series of events going under the banner of Smell the Glove that will commemorate 20 years since the former Scotland international played an integral role in a storied Celtic title triumph which ended Rangers’ nine-season domination of the championship.

The complete role reversal at present means the 43-year-old is well aware just how much has changed since the 1990s. This includes the status in the game of Maxwell. On Tuesday he resigned from the SFA professional game board to allow him to avoid any conflict of interest when lodging his application for the SFA chief executive position that has been vacant since Stewart Regan was forced out six weeks ago.

Maxwell is believed to have strong support from influential backers but his former team-mate at Queen’s, 
St Johnstone and Thistle has no doubts that he would be his own man.

Donnelly was assistant to Jackie McNamara at Partick when Maxwell made his move into the administrative side of the game. He believes the former defender has shown himself capable of fresh, out-of-the-box thinking and sound judgment in exacting circumstances at Firhill that could be transferable to the SFA top job. Indeed, the fact Maxwell’s football background encompasses playing the game and its governance gives him insight that Donnelly considers has often been lacking among the “suits” at the SFA.

“I think it helps to have football guys in those positions,” he said. “If you look at that situation over the years, there have been a lot of guys I think are out of touch with football, without wanting to pick out names. It can help to have that experience and I think he does.

“It’s not as if he is going into it straight out of being a player. He has experience of doing his Partick role for six or seven years, so he’s not wet behind the ears.

“He has been working hard and I’ve been at Partick a couple of times over the years. They have really developed the club. They have been in the Premiership the last five seasons and given the size of the club it’s run very well.

“There was that initiative with the mascot Kingsley which really took off for them. It was innovative and he has the experience of that. I kind of looked at that mascot and thought, ‘what the devil is that? But it got the attention of the nation.

“Over the years Partick has become a stable Premiership club and he is a big part of that. He has good experience behind him if he takes this role. With playing the game at Queens Park and his executive role at Thistle he maybe is the ideal candidate.”

Donnelly, pictured, still has to chuckle, though, when he ponders the transformation of 
Maxwell since the 42-year-old’s playing days. Even if he saw a strong-willed individual back then

“I must be honest, when he was dinking balls into my feet I only ever saw him as a football player rather than a chief executive,” said Donnelly.

“But he got a chance at Partick to be the general manager. I think he was actually striving for the manager’s job at the time. Jackie was getting it and I think he was keen. He got the managing director role and he has taken to it – he has taken to it really well.

“He was quite vocal in the dressing room. He was a bit of a joker and said his bit. But he is a good guy. He will go in there [and state his case] and if he takes the role on I hope he does shake it up a wee bit and bring his ideas to the table. He will have a mind of his own 100 per cent. He has good experience of the game at all levels.”