MALKY MACKAY is currently on course to lead Cardiff City back into the top flight of English football for the first time in 51 years.
But no matter how long the 40-year-old managerial rising star is involved in the game, he does not believe he will ever see his former club Celtic following the cross-border example of the Welsh teams who can benefit from English Premier League riches.
Mackay has forged a seven-point lead at the top of the Championship with Cardiff, heightening the prospect of them joining their Welsh rivals Swansea City in the EPL next season.
The historical anomaly of Welsh clubs participating in the English league structure has long been a source of envy for both Celtic and Rangers but any such switch for the Glasgow pair has been strongly resisted.
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell recently observed that the mood could change in future, with Uefa ‘opening their minds’ to the possibility of cross-border merged league structures.
But Mackay feels the door will remain firmly closed by English clubs to any moves to incorporate Celtic, something he believes will be a blessing for the rest of Scottish football.
“The fact the Welsh teams have always been involved in the English league makes it normal for them to be there,” insisted Mackay.
“It’s generally accepted that if Celtic asked again, it would be different. I don’t think it’s something I’m going to see in football. I’m not sure it would be a good thing for Scottish football. The English Premier League clubs would be against it because they maybe look at what Celtic have done in terms of Europe and it then becomes a question of money, and how it is distributed, rather than what might be good for the viewer.
“I can understand from a business point of view why Celtic keep knocking on the door and also from a Scottish point of view why everyone else wouldn’t want it to happen. You want the best teams to be playing in your own country.
“There is already an SPL without Rangers in it and if Celtic were to go, would the TV deal go all together? Or would it be a tiny deal for the rest of the clubs and could clubs then improve their infrastructure without that finance?
“It would become a diluted league with a lack of finances and there might even be a lack of interest in it outwith the local community of the clubs in the league, whereas with the Old Firm most of the country wants to watch. It’s simple.”
Mackay says the current perception of Scottish football south of the border is still laced with bewilderment at the financial collapse of Rangers. The Ibrox club’s relocation to the Third Division also saw Mackay unwittingly cause a furore at the Cardiff City Stadium ten days ago as he prepared for his team’s home game against Millwall.
“Down in England, they are still stunned Rangers are playing in the bottom division and can’t believe the Old Firm game isn’t happening anymore,” said Mackay. “It’s incredible that Sky are now showing Scottish Third Division games. People are more intrigued about the Rangers situation than they were by Celtic beating the best team in the world in the Champions League this season.
“When my old team Queen’s Park were playing Rangers in a lunchtime kick-off the other week, I got to the Cardiff City ground early before our game and stuck it on. In our stadium, all of the TVs in the lounges and concourses are served by the same Sky box which is in my office.
“Sunderand-Tottenham was on another channel at the same time, but I stuck Queen’s Park on and was delighted to see them doing really well against Rangers in front of 30,000 fans.
“Suddenly, the stadium manager came in and said all hell was breaking loose upstairs because they all wanted to watch Sunderland-Tottenham. I told him ‘Out – they won’t be watching it until I finish here!”.
Mackay was back at Hampden yesterday to deliver a lecture at the SFA’s Uefa Pro Licence course with the subject matter of dealing with the first 90 days in a new managerial job.
The 40-year-old is now into his second season in charge of Cardiff, his rapid progress in reaching the Carling Cup final and Championship Play-offs during his maiden term intensifying the desire of the club’s Malaysian billionaire owner Vincent Tan for even greater success.
Mackay suffered a setback at the weekend when a much-changed Cardiff side lost to non-league outfit Macclesfield in the third round of the FA Cup, but his priority is promotion to the Premier League. “We brought the development squad with us on Saturday and had nine under-20s at Macclesfield,” he added. “We picked a team to win the game and, with five minutes to go, that young team was winning the game 1-0. They’ll learn from that. My first team had played four games in ten days over the festive period and were at the point of breaking. They needed some down time. We’ve got them back for next week and have 20 games to go now in the Championship.
“The Championship is a precarious league to manage in, because of the prize at stake and the foreign ownership. You have to sit down with the people who have invested in your club and talk to them if you want to stay in a job. Expecation has increased, certainly at my club.
“Last season, I was asked to go in there and rebuild. We only had ten signed players when I took over. A year later, we managed to get to the play-offs against expectation and reached the League Cup final for the first time in the club’s history.
“So come last summer, there was a change in tack. They said ‘right, we are going to try and get promoted now’. It heightens expectancy among the fans. There is excitement all of a sudden and you have to deal with it. But I’d rather have that than be scraping around, battling relegation with a team fighting to avoid going into administration.
“You know what comes with the territory, that if you don’t get results, like Henning Berg at Blackburn, then you might not be in charge anymore.
“You look for stability at the club, to get your message through to the people in charge. You want to sit down with the owner and give him your thoughts without it being diluted through a chief executive.
“With Cardiff, the mountain comes to Muhammad! To be fair to our owner, he has come over to 11 of 13 home games so far this season. He didn’t last season, but has gone really hands-on this year. He texts me and we talk once a week, but when he comes over we sit for an hour and chat. Saturday was disappointing, but we have 20 league games to focus on now.”
• Malky Mackay was speaking at the Scottish FA’s UEFA Pro Licence course at Hampden Park. Visit www.scottishfa.co.uk/coacheducation for information on coaching courses available.