Why Malky Mackay should distance himself from Scotland job

Interim Scotland manager Malky Mackay. Picture: Steve Welsh/Getty Images
Interim Scotland manager Malky Mackay. Picture: Steve Welsh/Getty Images
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Eleven months ago, Malky Mackay was appointed performance director at the Scottish Football Association. You may recall the stooshie.

During the often uncomfortable, sometimes prickly exchanges at the subsequent unveiling press conference, Mackay recognised the opposition to his appointment. He was understandably edgy as he took these first steps towards a chance at rehabilitation, which was generously, and many still contend inappropriately, offered by the SFA.

One question, something about Mackay needing to excel in the role to ensure his life was not defined by the offensive texts it was revealed he sent while manager of Cardiff City, initially wrong-footed him.

“That’s not the question I thought you were going to ask,” he said. “I thought you were going to ask ‘are you going to jump out of this job in a year’s time?’” He then added he’d given chief executive Stewart Regan “a firm commitment that I absolutely want to be here for the next five or six years”.

A lot can clearly happen in nearly a year. The mere passage of time can wash away controversies. The world moves on. There’s another outrage du jour on which to focus.

Mackay’s texts, the references to “fkn chinkys”, “gay snakes” and “falsies”, are rendered a faint memory by the daily diet of alleged sexual harassment revelations elsewhere.

There was some registering of disapproval when Mackay was announced interim manager following Gordon Strachan’s departure last month. However, nothing like the opposition of last year when he was given the performance director’s role.

Perhaps Mackay senses this. He sounds bolshier, more confident. Now the Scotland manager’s job is available, he’s thinking: why shouldn’t I be a candidate?

Mackay spoke last year about how happy he was to be given the chance “to help shape that long-term project”. He added: “In no way, shape or form am I here to take the SFA badge for 18 months and then jump out…by my own volition I mean!”

He was responding to a suggestion he would be quick to quit if the offer of a manager’s job back in England presented itself. It would be perverse in the extreme were he to leave the performance director’s position for a vacancy within the SFA.

That “by my own volition” caveat he included seems pertinent now. Indeed, there’s plenty to reflect upon having heard Mackay speak at the press conference earlier this week where he announced the Scotland squad for Thursday’s friendly against the Netherlands.

Never mind Project Brave, this was Project Brass Neck.

Mackay was, inevitably, asked if he’d like to be considered for the permanent post. The correct answer would have been: ‘No, I already have a job here, one I’ve barely started.’ It’s what he should have said.

But Mackay refused to take the chance to rule himself out. Instead he said something deliberately vague about how no Scot could turn down such a chance if it were offered.

Mackay was clearly welcoming such speculation when really, if not exactly turning up for work each day in sackcloth and ashes, he should be endeavouring to convey the impression of a humbler man.

To be fair to Mackay, Regan could have, should have, nipped this in the bud last month. Willingly facing reporters just 24 hours after Strachan’s fate was confirmed, he revealed Mackay would be taking the side for the friendly against the Netherlands. Of course he was asked if Mackay was under consideration for the vacancy on a permanent basis.

Regan should have shot it down there and then. He should have stated point-blank he wasn’t. He should have stressed that even if Scotland beat the Netherlands 6-0, Mackay’s got his own, more 
important, responsibilities to concentrate on. It’s the job Regan and his fellow board members put their necks on the line to offer Mackay in the first place.