The Scot has forced an exit on his terms and leaves south Wales a richer and substantially more employable man than when he arrived, with the West Brom job a possibility
By Liam Twomey
In charge “for the foreseeable future”. The wording of Mehmet Dalman’s vote of confidence in Malky Mackay always sounded ominous, and in the event it bought him five days. A 3-0 home defeat to Southampton on Thursday provided just the pretext owner Vincent Tan had been waiting for, and the Premier League has lost its sixth manager of the season.
But amid the inevitable vitriol from Cardiff fans and indignation from the wider football world, the situation should not be misread. Mackay is the victor, not the victim. He knew this day was coming from the moment Tan chopped off his right arm by sacking Iain Moody in October and tasking the wholly unqualified 23-year-old Alisher Apsalyamov with applying his painting and decorating skills to the club’s recruitment policy. The only unknowns were the timing and precise terms of his departure.
Tan wanted a new manager, but apparently not enough to undertake a sacking and expose himself to a potentially sizable pay-off. His alternative plan was to try and make Mackay’s life a misery in the hope he could be sickened into leaving. Mackay responded by announcing he wanted three new players in January without first consulting his owner or his board.
His words were empty – how could Mackay possibly identify and secure transfer targets with his recruitment team decimated? – but they had the desired effect. Tan, outraged, went public to say he would not sanction another penny of spending this season. The battle lines were drawn.
Tan’s bizarre ultimatum – resign or be sacked – issued in the form of a leaked email to Mackay last week, wasn’t an ultimatum at all to anyone with a brain. In refusing to jump, Mackay not only scored another big victory in what has been a horrendously one-sided battle for the hearts and minds of Cardiff fans, but also forced a parting on his terms.
In truth, Mackay’s performance this season has been less than stellar. Cardiff were the seventh-highest spenders in the Premier League last summer yet lie 16th, just a point above the relegation zone. Their away form has been atrocious and at home, high-profile successes against the Manchester clubs have papered over wider failings, while their football has also been uninspired.
But none of this matters now. Mackay departs south Wales a hero, as well as a richer and substantially more employable man than when he arrived. West Brom may even provide an immediate chance to continue his career at Premier League level. He will not miss Cardiff.
Will Cardiff miss Mackay? Only time will tell. Tan finally enjoys the level of control he has always craved over the club he bankrolls. For better or worse, its fate is now entirely in his hands.
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