Malky Mackay was installed as new performance director at the Scottish Football Association yesterday and quickly pledged to stay for at least five years – if he is still wanted.
This vow will only rile critics who feel he shouldn’t have been given the opportunity to spend so much as one day in the post following offensive texts sent while manager at Cardiff City. But SFA chief executive Stewart Regan insisted Mackay can become a “force for good” on account of what he learned while voluntarily attending diversity education programmes run by the English FA.
Mackay described himself as a better man after his experiences, about which he was open and frank from the start of his dealings with the SFA. “You will find I am honest and transparent; whether you like me is a different matter,” he said. “I sat down with the [SFA] board, I gave them my thoughts on the way forward, my background, my history, my CV. And then it’s up to someone else if they want to hire me or not.”
“This is a long-term project,” he added. “I have given Stewart [Regan] a firm commitment. I absolutely want to be here for the next five or six years.”
Mackay said he expected the fresh revelations published yesterday on the back page of a newspaper and he had already briefed the SFA about them. He insisted the threat of an impending High Court battle after he was implicated in transfer irregularities while manager at Cardiff City would not impinge on his work.
“I was waiting on it,” he said. “It was something I had spoken to Stewart about and something my legal advisers had advised the SFA about on an early basis. I categorically deny that I have done anything wrong there and there is no shred of evidence against me, but I do respect the legal process.”
Cardiff have reportedly launched a claim of “dishonest conspiracy” with regard to two transfers against Mackay, their former head of recruitment Iain Moody and three agents. The deals involved are understood to be Steven Caulker’s £8.5 million switch from Tottenham Hotspur to Cardiff in July 2013 and Peter Odemwingie’s £2.5m move from West Bromwich Albion to Cardiff two months later. The latest revelations only intensify the controversy surrounding Mackay’s appointment. Mackay and Moody were accused of exchanging racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic messages between June 2011 and March 2014. Mackay, who was then on the verge of joining Crystal Palace as manager, had already been sacked by Cardiff’s Malaysian owner Vincent Tan, one of the reported subjects of the pair’s texted slurs.
This, combined with more recent headlines, served to further ensure the majority of questions yesterday were not about the implementation of the SFA’s performance strategy but centred on Mackay’s own conduct.
The Scot reminded reporters he was never charged for the text transgressions. The English FA concluded an 11-month investigation by bringing no charges against Mackay, who had sent the texts with a “legitimate expectation of privacy”. Mackay’s agent Raymond Sparkes has since claimed only three out of the thousands of messages sent were in any way discriminatory.
Mackay, 44, succeeds Brian McClair, who quit as performance director in July. A long search was carried out by a London-based headhunting firm to identify a shortlist of six potential successors, with Mackay eventually emerging as the preferred candidate.
Northern Ireland assistant manager Austin MacPhee, understood to be the original frontrunner, dropped out of contention last week after joining the Hearts management team under Ian Cathro.
“Malky was a standout candidate at the beginning of the process and was the standout candidate at the end of the process,” said Regan. “Austin MacPhee was included in the process, but Austin MacPhee withdrew. He had a job offer and he decided to take it.”
Mackay stressed he was back in Scotland for the long term, adding: “In absolutely no way, shape or form am I here to take the SFA badge for 18 months and jump out – not by my own volition anyway.”