Ian Maxwell confident SFA have the right man in Steve Clarke

You don’t take on the job of chief executive at the Scottish Football Association if you are seeking popularity.

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell was delighted to secure the services of 
Steve Clarke. Picture: SNS
SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell was delighted to secure the services of Steve Clarke. Picture: SNS

But in securing the services of Steve Clarke as Scotland manager, Ian Maxwell feels he has raised the approval ratings of his organisation to unprecedented levels.

“I don’t think anything the SFA has ever done has gone down as well as this,” said Maxwell as he reflected upon the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Clarke’s 
appointment.

“The reaction since it was announced on Monday has been incredible – that’s a bit of a first, so we will enjoy it while it lasts,” added Maxwell with a smile.

“I thought it would go down well but I didn’t think it would go down as well as it has.”

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On the first anniversary of the day he formally replaced Stewart Regan at the administrative helm of the SFA, it was clear Maxwell has relished the role of recruiting the man he believes will finally be able to restore Scotland’s long eroded status on the 
international stage.

“There are elements of my job which are more enjoyable than others,” said Maxwell. “But for a football guy, which I am, to have a huge say in who the next Scotland manager will be has actually been brilliant. I have loved every minute of it.

“Looking at the candidates, checking out their stats and working out who’s the best one, what one do we want, who has the skill set and what strengths they have has been really enjoyable.

“Hopefully it’s not something I’m doing again for a long, long time because I want Steve to be the man. I have every confidence he will be.

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“He was the number one target from the outset – absolutely. The record he had at Kilmarnock, when you look at how that translates into international football – the similarities between what he did there and what he is going to have to do with Scotland – it meant he was far and away the best guy.

“There was talk of clubs down south being interested in him but he was absolutely desperate to be the Scotland manager and is really happy to be here and really focused on the job ahead.

“I didn’t have to do too much to sell the job to him. He has coached and managed at a really high level and dealt with really high level players throughout his career.

“But the lure of being a national team coach means a lot to him and it is something which he’s focused on doing. We had the best part of three hours together and chatted through a whole range of issues. It was very clear early on that he was very interested in the job so to be able to get things over the line was really pleasing.”

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Maxwell believes Clarke’s presence will lead to a renewed enthusiasm for the national cause among some of the English Premier League-based players who have been notable absentees from the squad for not always convincing reasons over the past 18 months.

“That’s a fundamental part of the job for Steve,” said Maxwell. As much as getting the team structured and finding us a way of playing, a big part of the job is making sure every single player who is eligible to play for Scotland wants to come and be part of an international squad.

“He has worked with incredibly top-level players at every club he has been at. I saw a list of 24 players he coached at Chelsea and Liverpool and we are talking about top, top names. They all speak very highly of him – his coaching methods, his man-management skills.

“That will obviously be put to the test over the coming weeks and months. That’s a big, big part of the job – making sure that everyone who can play for Scotland is desperate to come and be part of the international squad.”

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Maxwell, who is hopeful of a boost in ticket sales for Scotland’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Cyprus at Hampden on 8 June, is determined to ensure Clarke has no issues in adapting to the lack of day-to-day involvement with players as he moves away from club football.

“It’s one of the first questions he asked – how does international management work?” added Maxwell.

“Between Steve and myself we have a chance to shape it the way we think it fits best. A lot of the job is about being around players, going to see them training and building relationships.

“That’s a journey. It doesn’t happen because he phones them and all of a sudden everyone wants to come and play for Scotland. It takes a bit of time for a relationship to develop.

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“A lot of our squad are down south, so Steve being able to use the contacts he has at the big clubs will be a huge factor in how successful we are.

“There is absolutely no doubt it is different from club management. You don’t get the players together as often. But I think there is more than enough to keep him busy.”