Cardiff City: Malky Mackay sacking is a very sorry state of affairs

 

So Malky Mackay's "foreseeable future" at Cardiff City lasted the grand total of five days before the uneasiest truce in football was broken by owner Vincent Tan.

The Scot's sacking as manager - despite only guiding Cardiff into domestic football's top tier for the first time since 1962 in April - was inevitable once he declined Tan's emailed invitation to resign earlier this month rather than be fired.

Cardiff contenders

  • Sven-Goran Eriksson: Currently with Guangzhou R&F, it is assumed Sven has the sort of worldwide gravitas Tan is looking for
  • Craig Bellamy: The lifelong Cardiff fan played a key role in his club's promotion
  • Yilmaz Vural: Turk Vural has managed more than 20 clubs in his homeland and was recently linked with Cardiff
  • Dave Jones: Initially sacked by Tan in 2011 after consistently failing to deliver promotion, he is now out of work after losing his job at Sheffield Wednesday
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Former Manchester United striker Solksjaer has earned a fine reputation with Molde in his native Norway, winning the league twice and the cup once

Chairman Mehmet Dalman spoke publicly about his attempts to broker peace in the fractured relationship but his declaration that Mackay would remain manager "until something else happens" did not exactly carry the ring of certainty.

That "something else" was presumably the 3-0 home defeat by Southampton on Boxing Day, played out against a backdrop of protests aimed at Tan, who has alienated a large body of Cardiff's support.

The appeals of passionate fans for their popular boss to be given more time have gone unheeded.

It is a sad state of affairs for a club and its supporters who should instead be enjoying life in the Premier League.

Mackay is unlikely to be on the managerial margins for long and he has left much for Cardiff's followers to remember him by since his appointment from Watford in June 2011.

He guided Cardiff to the Carling Cup final at Wembley within a year, when they were desperately unlucky to lose 3-2 on penalties to Liverpool after a thrilling 2-2 draw.

Mackay then took Cardiff into the promised land and perhaps the sweetest victory of all, a 1-0 win against Swansea City in the first top-flight derby between the clubs in November.

His side also beat Manchester City and held Manchester United to a draw.

Cardiff's turbulent times

  • May 2010: Vincent Tan joins the Cardiff board as Peter Ridsdale moves on, with Dato Chan Tien Ghee appointed as chairman.
  • June 2011: The club appoint Malky Mackay as manager, with Dave Jones sacked after a play-off semi-final defeat.
  • May 2012: Tan then opts to change the club's shirts from blue to red, claiming the move is to drum up interest in the Far East where red is seen as a strong colour which brings good luck.
  • September 2012: Tan replaces the club's chief executive, Alan Whiteley, with known associate Simon Lim.
  • April 2013: Mackay takes Cardiff to the Championship title, winning promotion to the Premier League.
  • August 2013: Tan tells Mackay, in no uncertain terms, to make good of the £35m he spent in the transfer window.
  • October 2013: Mackay's trusted head of recruitment, Iain Moody, is replaced by unknown 23-year-old Alisher Apsalyamov, a friend of Tan's family.
  • 16 December: Two days after a win over West Brom - after which Mackay said he wanted three players in the January window - Lim releases a statement on behalf of Tan which berates Mackay for his comments and tells him he will get "not a single penny" in the winter window.
  • 19 December: Mackay is told in a letter from Tan, sent via email, that he must resign or be sacked.
  • 21 December: Mackay says after his team's 3-1 defeat at Liverpool that he will not resign.
  • 22 December: Dalman says in a club statement that Mackay will remain in charge for the "foreseeable future" and that he aims to facilitate talks between Mackay and Tan.
  • 26 December: Cardiff City fans protest against the ownership of Vincent Tan before their 3-0 defeat by Southampton - Mackay's final game in charge.

The cracks, however, had already started to appear and were apparent to those of us who attended that victory against Swansea when Mackay dedicated the win to almost everyone at Cardiff, with the exception of Tan.

Mackay was already feeling undermined by the unceremonious removal of his trusted head of recruitment Iain Moody, who was instrumental in bringing in key summer signings such as Steven Caulker and Gary Medel, and his subsequent replacement by 23-year-old Alisher Apsalyamov, who had been on work experience at Cardiff last summer and was a friend of Tan's son.

The Kazakh eventually left the club following issues surrounding a work visa - all adding to what appeared to be a toxic atmosphere between the club's owner and a manager who was increasingly isolated and under threat.

It was also revealed that Tan had tried to intercede and influence tactics during matches, only to be ignored by Mackay.

But once details of the infamous "resign or be sacked" email emerged it was clear Mackay was on borrowed time, with the manager himself admitting he expected to be fired after the loss at Liverpool before Christmas.

Now Tan must find a replacement willing to work under his terms and in an atmosphere filled with hostility and discontent against the owner.

Mackay's success meant Tan managed to pull off a change of Cardiff's famous "Bluebirds" colours to red last year - many protested but the club was heading in the right direction so it went ahead.

Tan has had no such luck convincing supporters of the wisdom of sacking Mackay and it is difficult to see what sort of appointment he can pull off to turn things back in his favour.

Sven-Goran Eriksson, inevitably, has been mentioned, along with former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - currently managing in Norway - and Basel coach Murat Yakin - but the man the fans wanted in charge has now departed.

Mackay is a popular figure within football and his reputation is unstained as he is seen as the victim of the piece. It is unlikely he will be out of work for long.

There should also be regret for Tan too. He provided the finances to bankroll Cardiff's march into the Premier League but it seems he was unable to resist what those followers regarded as seismic change: first off the pitch; now on it.

Tan deserves credit for his financial backing. It is unlikely Cardiff would be where they are without that support but this will now be overshadowed, probably permanently, by what so many supporters regard as Mackay's shoddy treatment.

Premier League exits 2013-14

  • Paolo Di Canio (Sunderland)
  • Ian Holloway (Crystal Palace)
  • Martin Jol (Fulham)
  • Steve Clarke (West Brom)
  • Andre Villas-Boas (Tottenham)
  • Malky Mackay (Cardiff)

Those seeking logic in Tan's move draw parallells between Southampton's sacking of Nigel Adkins in January after he had taken the club from League One to the Premier League with successive promotions.

The replacement of Adkins by Argentine Mauricio Pochettino has seen results improve on the pitch and led to executive chairman Nicola Cortese being hailed by some as a visionary for making that ruthless change.

The problem for Tan is that sort of lightning may not strike twice and if Cardiff drop back into the Championship on his watch there is no doubt where their fans will point the finger of blame.

Many Cardiff supporters feel there is a basic human element to this story.

Mackay has taken Cardiff to Wembley, the Premier League and has given them some of their happiest times in his relative short spell in charge. They simply do not understand how he deserves to be dismissed.

More may emerge in the coming days but for now Cardiff City - when everyone connected with the club should be enjoying the Premier League ride - is in very public turmoil.

And that is a very sorry state of affairs.