THE task of restoring Maryhill to the elite of Junior football has just got a whole lot tougher according to their former manager John Hughes.

Hughes was understood to have resigned earlier this month as a result of the Lochburn Park side’s defeat by Whitletts Vics in the Super First Division play-off match, but the one-time Scotland Amateur Select boss set the record straight last night by insisting his decision was sparked by the twin departures of long-serving club officials Gordon Anderson and Gordon Boyd.

Hughes said:“Losing out to Whitletts put the tin lid on a bitterly disappointing season and it was always my intention to take stock of my own position going forward.

“But my mind was as good as made up for me by both Gordons announcing they had decided to step down from their posts after more than 50 years of combined service for Maryhill.

“Their unstinting support and backing over the past couple of seasons has led to a close bond being formed between us and ultimately I just didn’t have the stomach to carry on without them.

“My shoes have already been filled by Allan Kelly taking over as team manager but the club will not find it quite as easy to unearth people of a similar calibre to the two Gordons.”

Hughes, who is keen to stay involved at Junior level, hopes his successor can revive Maryhill’s fortunes and lead them out of the new West Region League 1 at the first time of asking.

He said: “Allan is a very knowledgeable guy who enjoyed a lot of good times at amateur level with Arthurlie United and he will put his heart and soul into getting things right at Lochburn.

“But transfers and wage bills are so important when it comes to on-field success in the Juniors and he might discover like I did that working with one of the smallest budgets can be something of a handicap.

“Already he’s behind the eight ball. Two of his most experienced players Andy Banks and Joe Begley are on the verge of rejoining their former club Port Glasgow while last season’s top scorer Ciaran Smith is Irvine Meadow bound and Alex McFarlane has agreed a deal to sign for Benburb.

"To replace guys of their quality in one go is a huge ask and it may take time for suitable replacements to be put in place.”

For his part, Kelly came across as brimming with enthusiasm when he spoke to SportTimes last night ahead of “dipping his toe in the Junior waters”.

He said: “I have never played or managed at this level of the game but 14 years in charge of Arthurlie United has afforded me a decent grounding and the same goes for my No 2 Kevin Lafferty who was previously with Celtic Under-21s.

“I’ve had a couple of years away from the game attempting to build up my business and during that time I’ve turned down a number of approaches to get involved with Junior clubs however now I feel the time is right to give it a bash.

“Kevin and I are not coming through the door promising to conquer the world or even challenge for the major prizes but it’s not unrealistic for us to be aiming at getting Maryhill in the promotion mix at the end of next season and to that end we are already hard at work trying to recruit players we feel can do us a turn.

“The opportunity to take charge of a club with Maryhill’s history and tradition has totally energised us and we want any new players to be feeling that same buzz.”

Kelly will not shy away from tapping into his extensive array of contacts in looking to put Maryhill back on the map.

He said: “Beith manager Johnny Millar is from Barrhead like myself and both he and another of my long- time acquaintances Budgie McGhie at Kilbirnie Ladeside can expect a few telephone calls as Kevin and I look to hit the ground running.

“Their advice will be invaluable with regards to prospective signings and it will also be helpful to hear their opinion of Maryhill’s quota of eight signed players whom I hope to meet face to face when we get pre-season training underway on Saturday.”