Malky Mackay asks Ross County fans to reserve judgement as club explain controversial appointment

Any football manager is well served by possession of a thick skin. For Malky Mackay, it has become a prerequisite when taking up a new job.

Malky Mackay acknowledges the crowd during his match in interim charge of Scotland for a friendly against Netherlands at Pittodrie in November 2017. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group).

When news of his appointment as Ross County manager emerged, even the club’s own supporter liaison officer was prompted to take to social media to ‘express the concerns’ of fans regarding Mackay.

In the unforgiving world of Scottish football there are still those unable to accept Mackay’s right to continue his career, even seven years on from his inappropriate text messages which were made public in the aftermath of his acrimonious departure from Cardiff City.

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So just as he did when he joined the Scottish FA as performance director in 2016, Mackay found himself having to address the impact of those past indiscretions when he was presented to the media by Ross County on Wednesday afternoon.

Malky Mackay pictured at the Scotland under-21 match against Croatia at Tynecastle last November shortly before he left his role as the Scottish FA's performance director. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Mental toughness

The 49-year-old admits he has had to find new levels of resilience to deal with the battering his reputation took in 2014 and the apparent unwillingness of many to recognise his right to rehabilitation.

"That's an interesting question now, given how much spotlight and focus there is generally on mental health after Covid,” reflected Mackay.

"How do people deal with things on social media or other parts of society?

Malky Mackay pictured during his time as Cardiff City manager issuing intructions to his players during a friendly match against Celtic in July 2011. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group).

"Like anything, you have to have people who believe in you, like the people at Ross County this week.

"Before that, people at the Scottish FA, UEFA and FIFA have also believed in me. You just need to put yourself out there as the best person you can be and be judged on that.

"I am very enthusiastic to be back involved as a manager and I will make sure everyone realises the passion I have for this job.

"In the wider Scottish game, people have met me and know me from the last three or four years. Everyone has their own opinion of everyone, but I have tried to be as fair-handed as possible during my time at the Scottish FA.

"Does it (the criticism from some Ross County fans) put me under extra pressure at the start? Not particularly.

“I’d ask them to judge me on what I say to them, what they see on the pitch and in press conferences. I’m sure in the next few months we’ll be going out to talk to fans in Q&As.

“The fact is I want the very best for this football club and I’ll work 24 hours a day to do it.

“I’m very aligned with the owner and chief executive and the Scottish FA previously felt I was someone they wanted to work for them.

“I”ve got unfinished business as a manager and I want to make sure this club succeeds. I want this more than anything.”

Backing from the boardroom

County chief executive Steven Ferguson former co-manager at the Dingwall club, firmly endorsed Mackay’s character and has no doubts he is the right man to replace John Hughes and lead the side in what will be a highly competitive 2021-22 Premiership campaign.

“My message to the fans is the exact same as Malky’s,” said Ferguson. “We know everything about Malky and what went on in the past. There are genuinely no skeletons in his cupboard on that one. He’s taken a battering and he’s still standing and still so passionate and hungry and has a clear vision himself on what success looks like.

“You only have to look at next season’s Premiership. We are the small fish in with the two Dundee clubs, the Edinburgh clubs, Rangers and Celtic, St Johnstone who have just won two cups. It’s a very, very tough league and for Ross County to compete at that level, we need to think smart and have plans and procedures that make us able to compete and hold our own against bigger clubs with bigger budgets.

“We need to make sure everything ties together, whether it be talent identification, analysis, recruitment, development - Malky’s CV tells you that he excels in every one of those facets. For us to have that at our disposal, I ask the fans to give him a chance to implement what he wants to implement and be judged on what he does at Ross County. That’s what we’re doing and are going to do. You can’t change the past but you can be really positive about the future.”

Happy to be back

Mackay, who last match as the main man in a technical area was as interim Scotland head coach for a friendly against Netherlands at Pittodrie in November 2017, is relishing his return to front line management.

“Football is my life,” he said. “In the last four years I’ve been heavily involved in the international set up and every weekend I’d invariably be at a game in the Premiership or Championship.

“I’m proud of the fact I’ve been asked to be manager of this club and want to be successful. It’s something I come in to with an overarching look at a variety of areas at the club and I’ll work closely with Steven Ferguson to look at processes that will be in place for the next five or ten years, whether I’m here or not.

“I know the club very well having been up over the last four years spending time with the owner (Roy MacGregor) and chief exec, auditing the youth academy, and I was given the grand tour. It excites me when I’ve heard Roy’s vision over the last few days.

“If you look at my record in my playing and management career, and beyond that in my governance career, you see longevity. I don’t jump in and out of places, but stay four or five years and that’s been my life since I left banking to play for Queens Park at 21. That’s what the fans are going to get.”

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