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Boss Malky Mackay explains why award-winning chief executive Steven Ferguson is ‘heartbeat’ of Ross County

The former co-manager has been named as the Premiership's top CEO after votes were cast by his peers from across the SPFL.

Award-winning Ross County chief-executive Steven Ferguson. Image: DC Thomson
Award-winning Ross County chief-executive Steven Ferguson. Image: DC Thomson

Award-winning Ross County chief executive Steven Ferguson is a “diamond” with a determination to succeed – that’s the view of manager Malky Mackay.

The County manager was speaking about 45-year-old former Staggies player, coach, academy director and co-boss Ferguson after he was named the SPFL’s CEO of the Year at the Football Business Awards, an award voted for by his Premiership peers.

Ferguson is now in contention to win the overall CEO of the year award, having been shortlisted alongside colleagues from the top four English leagues. The awards dinner takes place in London on May 26.

Chairman Roy MacGregor appointed Ferguson into his current position three years ago and his first task was to guide the club through the minefield of the Covid pandemic.

He has continued to knuckle down and his work ethic impresses Mackay, who is delighted to see Ferguson land this top accolade – even though the CEO needed to be convinced his leg wasn’t being pulled.

He said: “I think Steven thought it was a wind-up when myself and Fiona MacBean, the club secretary, told him.

Ross County manager Malky Mackay. Image: SNS

“It’s the measure of the man and tells you what he’s like. I am lucky to have such a good chief executive to work with.

“I’m absolutely delighted for him. He’s not flash or someone who wants to garner the headlines.

“He quietly is the heartbeat of this football club. He’s done every job here – he’s been a successful player, a successful academy manager, a successful co-manager and he’s become a chief executive who our owner Roy MacGregor works very closely with.

“I speak to him every day and we’re very aligned in terms of our thoughts on football and our values on how a football club should be and how people should act for our club and how we’re represented in the community.

“The club runs through Steven’s veins.

“I am delighted my working relationship is with someone like Steven, (as) you never know how it’s going to go when you meet (a chief executive).

“I’ve had a varying degree of experiences with chief executives – some good, some bad, and I have certainly got a diamond here. He’s a huge shoulder for me to lean on.

Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson, who led the Staggies to their Championship title in 2019. Image: SNS

“The important thing here is his peers in the SPFL have voted for him, so it really means something. It’s great for Steven and for this football club and for us going forward.”

Chief has ‘walked in these shoes’

The fact former midfield dynamo Ferguson, with 220 games played for the club, has been there and done several jobs from the pitch to the boardroom is a real benefit to Mackay.

The Staggies boss said: “Steven has played here and lived here. The academy role is incredibly important, considering the size of our community, so that gives you an even broader thought of it.

“He’s also been joint-manager here (with Stuart Kettlewell), which puts him into my shoes, and he has seen the situations a manager has to deal with.

“He then stepped into the chief executive role at one of the worst times that anyone has had to live through in terms of the Covid pandemic.

“We’re aligned not just in terms of how we believe football should be played, but also how people should approach the life that they lead.

“No one is happier than me he’s got this accolade, because it’s not an easy role.

“Until you walk in these shoes, people don’t realise some of the things you have to deal with and the fires he must put out on a regular basis.

“That is the role of a chief executive at a football club – you manage so many different stakeholders. The club badge is at the centre of everything.”

Ferguson has diverse CEO skillset – Mackay

Mackay reckons Ferguson possesses all the qualities required to succeed as CEO, with MacGregor more than happy to trust him in the top role.

He added: “Steven is a huge part of everything this club is trying to achieve. The values of this club are driven by him.

“I see the hours he puts in and the sacrifices he makes for this club. You can see how much he cares about it.

“Our owner (Roy MacGregor) is an incredibly successful businessman who I’m sure doesn’t suffer fools (gladly). I know there is a very close relationship there in terms of trust (between the two).

Malky Mackay with Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor.

“The club is in Steven’s hands with Roy.

“Steven understands and gets our community and gets the journey this club is on and what it means to the Highlands and the people and the supporters of Ross County.

“That’s a great thing when you have someone as committed with a real steely determination and drive. He’s been a professional footballer at the top level. He has the will to win, but he also has real emotional intelligence.

“He brings people together, rather than pushes them away. That’s a great trait to have, especially in a leader.”

Fir Park next stop for in-form County

Mackay’s focus, meanwhile, is preparing his team for Saturday’s Premiership clash at Motherwell.

Wins against Livingston and Dundee United have lifted the Dingwall club two points clear of bottom spot with three games to go. 

Motherwell, now bossed by Kettlewell, are in terrific form and are seventh in the table.

County, currently in the relegation play-off berth, trail 10th-placed Kilmarnock by one point and have St Johnstone at home next Wednesday before finishing their season away to Killie a week on Saturday.