Airdrie's Greatest Central Midfielder - Ian McMillan
25th March 2016
The first central midfielder in our Greatest XI, with 51% of the overall vote, is IAN McMILLAN.
As head of our panel, Ian refused to nominate himself for this week's vote, but the other panel members were unanimous in their opinion that he should be included - and the decision proved to be the correct one with fans voting in their hundreds for the man who is now Honorary Club President.
1948-1958 / 1964-1966
Airdrieonians’ most celebrated son. Born John Livingstone McMillan on 18th March 1931, ‘Ian’ grew up a stone’s throw away from the Diamonds’ Broomfield Park home. His long association with the club he supported as a boy began in July 1948 when, at the age of 17, he left Airdrie Academy to sign professional forms.
Over the next decade, the unassuming yet enthusiastic teenager blossomed into possibly the greatest talent ever to grace the famous ‘Diamond’. From a lightning football brain that enabled him to pick out precise defence-splitting passes at will to his brilliant dribbling style, Ian quite simply had everything. His skill at orchestrating the entire flow of a game (allied to the fact that he shared his surname with the country’s incumbent prime minister) quickly earned him the nickname of “Wee Prime Minister”. Far from being merely an individual, however, Ian was also known as a superb team player, this by virtue principally of his highly creative attacking partnership with fellow inside-forward Jimmy Welsh and free-scoring centre Hughie Baird.
Local hero status already cemented, Ian’s renown beyond the town broadened when, in April 1952, he gained his first of five full Scotland caps as a Diamond. A crowd of over 134,000 packed into Hampden Park to watch Scotland lose 2-1 to England while, later the same month, Ian shrugged off that debut disappointment to net a brace in the 6-0 defeat of the U.S.A. Unsurprisingly, as his glowing spell at Broomfield approached the ten-year mark, Ian began to attract serious interest on the transfer market. Rangers eventually won the race for his signature and, in October 1958, he moved to Ibrox in a deal worth £10,300. His maturity as an inside forward of real quality continued to blossom and during the six years he remained with the Glasgow giants, the honours, including three league championship, three Scottish Cup and two League Cup winners’ medals as well as an appearance in the 1961 European Cup-winners’ Cup final, stacked up lavishly. He also added a further Scotland cap to the five gained with Airdrie as well as picking up other ‘B’ and League honours.
In December 1964, however, there would be a much-celebrated homecoming when Airdrie paid £5,000 to bring him back to Broomfield. Unfortunately, it was to be a short-lived return with persistent injury problems forcing his retiral from the playing side during the summer of 1967. Returning to successfully manage the Diamonds between 1970 and 1976, Ian then joined the board as vice-chairman. In 2002, he was named Honorary President, a distinction thoroughly merited in recognition of a truly outstanding career.