MALKY Mackay lost a destabilising power struggle with Cardiff’s controversial owner Vincent Tan yesterday, and became the fourth Premier League manager to be fired this month.
Tan claimed he was compelled to dismiss Mackay because he felt the “dirty linen” being exposed about the dispute was creating a distraction.
Assistant manager David Kerslake and first-team coach Joe McBride, the former Hibernian and Everton winger, have been put in temporary charge, while the bookmakers’ odds-on favourite to replace Mackay is former Manchester United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has established himself as a manager in his home country of Norway, winning the league twice with Molde.
Former Celtic and Scotland defender Mackay, who took Cardiff to their first League Cup final in 2012, was dismissed only five days after being told by the south Wales club he would remain in charge for the “foreseeable future.”
Despite that assurance, there was a caveat that Mackay had to heal his rift with Tan, which seemed unlikely given the owner’s apparent reluctance to meet with him in recent months. The Malaysian owner and Mackay clashed over the dismissal of head of recruitment Iain Moody in October.
Mackay’s future after two-and-a-half years at the club seemed to be doomed when he received an ultimatum last week from Tan to resign or be fired in an email that listed grievances against the manager, linked to the transfer strategy.
Tan finally decided yesterday, 24 hours after a 3-0 loss to Southampton, to fire the manager and go public about the turmoil at the club.
“There has been a good deal of publicity generated by and about Mr Malky Mackay over the last few months. Indeed far too much dirty linen has been exposed to the public gaze,” Tan said in a statement. “But, I stress, not by me. Indeed, I have deliberately not responded to this, hoping that the club can be judged on its football rather than personalised arguments about who said what to whom.
“I have, however, regretfully concluded that it is no longer fair to the club, its players, its fans, or the public more generally, for this uncomfortable state of affairs to continue. Cardiff City Football Club means far too much to us all for it to be distracted by this.”
Mackay, who had a contract through until June 2016, thanked the players, coaching staff and fans for backing him, “especially in these recent turbulent months”.
“I leave with my head held high,” Mackay added in a statement. “The foundations laid here at Cardiff City will provide a solid platform for my successor and for the sake of the club, I hope the progress that has been made so far will not be impaired in any way by today’s enforced changes.”
Mackay also spoke of his sadness at leaving Cardiff after two-and-a-half years at the helm.
“It is with the deepest and most sincere regret that I today confirm my sacking as manager of Cardiff City Football Club,” he said. “As disappointing as today’s decision is, I am already able to look back at my time at the club with immense pride and joy given the number of milestones the club achieved during the last two-and-a-half years.
“A League Cup final appearance followed by promotion to the Premier League for the very first time, achieved as winners of the Championship, allowing the club to move back to this elite level after a 51-year absence.”
Tan, who bought Cardiff in 2010, had already alienated some supporters by changing the club’s colours from blue to red and adopting a new crest. The lingering uncertainty over Mackay’s future fuelled further protests against Tan’s running of the club at matches, with the tensions overshadowing Cardiff’s first season in the Premier League. Now the team is only a point above the relegation zone.
Upset by the axing of the popular Mackay, the main fans’ group urged Tan to listen to their concerns.
“Recent off the field controversies have damaged the relationship between the club and fans,” the Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust said in a statement. “One way Mr Tan could build bridges with supporters would be to return the playing kit to blue.”
Solskjaer would be swapping apparent job security in Norway for a high-pressure relegation battle in the Premier League if he joins Cardiff. Solskjaer “can make a good manager,” said Cardiff president Sam Hammam. “He will have had very good basic grounding [at Molde] to what is needed now. We need a manager whose feet are on the ground and not just telling Vincent Tan, ‘Give me your money’, as if Vincent Tan is a cash cow.”