Ian McCall was born in Dumfries, Scotland. In his boyhood, he was a regular on the Palmerston terraces watching Queen of the South. His hopes of playing for his home town club were dashed, though, by then chairman Willie Harkness. "I played a trial game for the club, and thought I did reasonably well," McCall recalls. "Drew Busby was the manager, but I was told by Willie Harkness I might not make the grade. Instead I went to Queen's Park, and then three years after that was sold to Rangers for £250,000.
His spell at Clydebank took place against the backdrop of an abortive scheme to relocate the club to Dublin.
In 17 games in charge at Morton, McCall achieved five wins and 9 defeats.
This was followed by a move to Airdrieonians. Airdrie challenged for promotion to the Scottish Premier League before the club's extinction in 2002, making McCall the last manager in the club's history. McCall won 23 of his 65 games in charge.
A spell, at Falkirk, with the best win rate of his managerial career, led to McCall twice being offered the manager's job at Dundee United, which he finally accepted in January 2003. In McCall's first top flight managerial season the Tayside Club achieved a top-6 finish, but in the following season with the club in a relegation battle he was sacked in March 2005.
In November 2005, Ian McCall returned to management with his home town club Queen of the South. After a less than auspicious start to his reign as Queen of the South manager, the Palmerston outfit enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in the early months of 2006, finally securing eight position in the league and thus avoiding having to play-off to maintain first division status. 2006/07 provided a second relegation battle. Allan Jenkins scored the Stranraer winner on a 2 January South West relegation derby leaving Queens firmly in the play off spot that was ninth place. However Jenkins was sold to Gretna 10 days later. Stranraer's league form imploded immediately recording only one other league win from then until the season's end. Despite narrowly avoiding relegation, Ian McCall was sacked by Queen of the South, with his assistant Gordon Chisholm taking over. His departure from Queen of the South was in bitter circumstances. McCall fielded an ineligible player in Jamie Adams in a Scottish Cup run early in 2007. Queens were fined £20,000 by the SFA. Chairman Davie Rae described the fine as, "A considerable sum". McCall's departure from Queens was at the season's end. In 70 games in charge McCall notched 19 wins.
He became manager of Partick Thistle in May 2007. staying until 15 April 2011 when he departed after achieving 70 wins from 179 games in charge.