With the recent announcement of Scottish Football manager Malky Mackay being announced as the new Ross County manager, the details of his controversial past have reared their ugly head again. Sacked by Cardiff when they sat fifteenth in the Premier League, fans were calling for Owner Vincent Tan’s head when Mackay’s sacking was announced.
But the secretive reason’s for his dismissal slowly made their way to the forefront of the media, and Mackay’s disgusting views were made clear for the world to see. He went from one of Cardiff’s best managers in recent times, to a social pariah not welcome in the city of Cardiff, or anywhere else where fans could sing him out of the stadiums.
But how did the former Cardiff bosses career take such a downturn? How did his appointment at Ross County cause such vitriol from the fans, when just years prior he was being hailed as the hero of a now clad in red Cardiff City? To discover why, we have to go all the way back to 2010, when Dave Jones’ Cardiff were once again eyeing up promotion to the promised land of the Premier League.
The Dave Jones Era ends
In the Summer of 2011, Cardiff City were in turmoil. Amounting debts meant that former boss Dave Jones had signed an army of loan players on big wages, betting on achieving promotion to the Premier League and the riches that come with it. This included the likes of Manchester City star Craig Bellamy, Welsh International Jason Koumas, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (Nicknamed ‘The JET’) from Arsenal, and future Premier League winner Danny Drinkwater from Manchester United.
This proved unsustainable. Cardiff managed to fight QPR for the top spot all season, but succumbed to the pressure towards the end, a poor run of form pushing them down to fourth place, behind local rivals Swansea City. A play-off semi final loss to Reading put an end to Jones’ run as the Cardiff City manager, and paved the way for Watford boss Malky Mackay to take over and rebuild the team.
Malky Mackay, Cardiff City Manager
Mackay was given a limited budget to spend, with former Rangers striker Kenny Miller the most expensive of the signings, costing under a million pounds. The bulk of the squad was replaced by free transfers. Key members of the team that season signed on free transfers included Scottish wingers Don Cowie and Craig Conway, as well as the return of fan favourite striker Robert Earnshaw. The best signing he made was the acquisition of Icelandic Midfielder Aron Gunnarsson, who joined from Coventry on a free transfer. Gunnarsson would feature for the Bluebirds until 2019, starting consistently in midfield for 8 successful seasons. The Cardiff City manager had a huge rebuild ahead of him, and little funds to do it.
Mackay’s team was one of the best Cardiff teams seen in years. His first season in charge he led Cardiff to a League Cup Final, where they lost to Liverpool on penalties thanks to the wayward shot of Steven Gerrard’s cousin, Anthony. After rumours came out that Anthony Gerrard was seen partying with his cousin after Liverpool won the game, he never played for the Bluebirds again. Cardiff once again finished in the play-offs, but lost 5-0 on aggregate to Sam Allardyce’s West Ham in the semi final’s. Despite this, with the squad building Mackay had managed, and the performance in the League Cup, Mackay was handed a new 3 year deal with the Bluebirds and a significant transfer budget to push for promotion the next season
The Championship Winners
Mackay’s second season was a success on the pitch, but off the pitch the club were in a heated battle with their own fans.
Vincent Tan made the bold move to do something that would change the perception of Cardiff City forever. He changed the club kit colour from the iconic blue to red. He also altered the club logo, relegating the Bluebird from prominence in the centre of the badge, to a footnote beneath a Welsh Dragon that dominated the badge. A proud symbol of Wales, but the dragon did not represent the fans or the City of Cardiff.
Known as the Bluebirds since 1908, when Riverside A.F.C changed their chequered brown kit to blue and took on the new name of Cardiff City. Two years after leaving their home of Ninian Park for the new Cardiff City Stadium, fans felt like Tan was stealing a part of the clubs identity. Vincent Tan’s intentions were clear – red is supposedly a lucky colour in Asia, where the Malaysian business is from, and he hoped it would bring luck to the club that had become perennial losers in recent year.
Fans were not happy. Protests were heard around the City, and attendance dropped. Despite Mackay leading the club to top of Championship and into the Premier League, the season was marred by the disillusion of fans and newfound hatred for the owner.
The players and management took no notice, however, and put in some of the finest performances seen by the Bluebirds, including a 4-0 drubbing of Burnley and a 1-0 win over future Premier League Champions Leicester City. The signing of Craig Bellamy on a free transfer satisfied the insatiable annoyance of fans for a while, with the player dropping down from the Premier League to help his local club finally achieve promotion. Mackay had managed to take Cardiff to the promised land, and he had sealed his reputation as one of the greatest Cardiff City managers of all time.
The matches were hostile for the owner. Vincent Tan, and the whole team, received boos and jeers, demanding the return of the kit from blue to red. It would take another 3 years until Vincent Tan would finally relent and return the club to it’s rightful blue, but any goodwill he had made by saving the club from liquidation years earlier was gone. What should have been Cardiff’s greatest moment was marred by instability of the relationship between the club and it’s fans.
The Premier League
Cardiff finally reached the Premier League. After years of play off heartbreak and watching local rivals Swansea City beat them to promotion and cup glory, it was finally for Cardiff to bask in the glory of the top flight.
Tan backed the Cardiff City manager in the transfer market hugely, handing him a war chest of over 40 million pounds. The signings of Chilean Midfield destroyer Gary Medel for record 11 million pounds excited the fans, and former Tottenham defender Steven Caulker was brought in to sure up the defence. He was divisive, having spent the previous season on loan with rival’s Swansea, but his goal against Swansea in the first ever Premier League South Wales derby made every fan forget.
One transfer that raised eyebrows was the Danish striker Andreas Cornelius. The Dane played only 45 minutes of football for the Bluebirds after a ten million pound move from Copenhagen. Vincent Tan was on record calling Mackay “An idiot” in regards to the transfer, after the striker was sold back to Copenhagen for half his original fee and a drop in his wages.
“What did we get? We paid £10.5m for Cornelius who didn’t even play 45 minutes and then the manager said he was a project.”
Vincent Tan, in a 2017 interview with BBC Sport Wales
The transfer was subject to investigation, amid rumours of a money laundering scheme related to this transfer and other. Mackay was not found guilty of any offences, but his relation with owner Tan had broken down of the details of this transfer, among others.
Highs and Lows
Mackay’s Cardiff produced some incredible, memorable moments in their first Premier League campaign. In the first Premier League match at the Cardiff City stadium, the Bluebirds knocked off reigning Champions Manchester City with goals from Aron Gunnarrson and Frazier Campbell sending the Grange End faithful into raptures. A last gasp draw with defending champions Manchester United, thanks to a stoppage time header from highly rated Korean youngster Kim B0-Kyung adding misery to David Moyes sole season in charge.
Jordan Mutch, signed from Birmingham the season prior, also singled himself out as a goalscorer that season. With a highlight reel that matched any top player, including this curling effort against Fulham, he gave Cardiff of finishing this season outside of the dreaded bottom three. The Cardiff City manager was struggling ,but the team still had a chance of staying up.
However, on 27 December 2013, Cardiff fans awoke to the news that Malky Mackay had been sacked by Vincent Tan. This seemed like the last straw. Mackay was embroiled in a relegation battle with Cardiff, but that was expected. Even after a 3-0 home loss, fans sang in chorus “Don’t sack Mackay. Malkay Mackay”, a message to the owner after rumours that Vincent Tan had told Mackay to “Resign or be fired”.
Mackay’s sacking put the fans trust in the club and it’s owner into an all time low, and all but doomed the club to relegation with the appointment of current Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer. Solsjkaer would relegate the club by the end of the season, with Cardiff failing to find any kind of identity under him and exposing his lack of tactical ability while in charge of the club. He would never feel truly accepted as by the fans as Manager of Cardiff City.
The Truth Comes Out
Cardiff were relegated and preparing for a Championship season with Ole Gunner Solskjaer as their manager. Malky Mackay, however, was still loved by the fans after his seemingly unjust sacking, and was the frontrunner to replace Tony Pulis as the new Crystal Palace manager. Things were looking up for the Scotsman, until some terrible truths were to be revealed.
Mackay was embroiled in a legal battle, seeking compensation for his unfair dismissal from Cardiff City in December. However, he dropped the suit entirely in May, leading fans to question what had gone on between the manager and the owner.
However, in August 2014, football fans across the country were shocked when private texts sent from Malky Mackay were revealed, and their contents vindicated Vincent Tan’s decision to terminate his employment completly.
A series of racist, sexist and homophobic texts were leaked to the press, sent by Mackay to his head of recruitment Ian Moody, who also lost his job along with Mackay.
The Horrific Texts
The text sent after the signing of Kim Bo-Kyung read “F*** c******. F*** it. There’s enough dogs in Cardiff for us all to go around.”
Another one the former Cardiff City manager sent with homophobia clear in intent read, “He’s a snake. A gay snake. Not to be trusted”. And to show that Mackay saw nothing wrong with the content in these hateful messages, he even sent racist imagery to a group chat featuring all of the Cardiff City coaching staff. The image was that of a monopoly board, where every space had “Go to Jail” written on it. Mackay hurtfully joked that it was “Black Monopoly”.
Fan’s felt disgusted that the man who had been trusted by them, who was the only ray of hope as Vincent Tan changed the club from blue to red, was the most vile man at the club. Former Cardiff City players even commented on the allegations, with one former Cardiff City player, who played for Cardiff and was of Egyptian origin, tweeted a series of tweets, talking of the racist abuse he received from Mackay.
Malky mackay is racist wish the people at cardiff city seen it sooner
— Ibrahim Farah (@Ibby_Farah) August 20, 2014
Cardiff fans were in shock, and many fell out of love with the club with this revelation. Attendance fell to an all time low, with only 3000 fans attending a league cup tie years later. The change to red was bad enough, but the horrible attitude of someone they held dear was too much to bear. Relegation to the championship and dire football played under successive managers meant that there was no more joy in watching their beloved Cardiff City. It wasn’t until the arrival of footballing g
Another promotion and relegation were in the future for Cardiff City, but with the fans and club reunited in their loyalties, things were looking up. Despite playing dire football, with long balls and long throws ins the plan of attack in most games, results came in and fans could enjoy the match day again. The owners relationship with the fans grew and the project for the future of the club looked bright.
Malky Mackay, however, still managed to get jobs in football, but never seemed to grow as a person after his texts were revealed. He managed Wigan, bit was sacked after just 138 days later, due to fan backlash and poor results made his position untenable. Mackay was appointed Scotland’s performance director, and even managed Scotland on an interim basis in 2017, managing a credible 1-0 loss to the Netherlands. The Scotsman was recently appointed manager of Scottish Club Ross County, once again to a large amount of backlash, of fans who cannot forgive and cannot forget the hateful comments he had made in the pass. The Scottish FA and Kick It Out organisation backed Mackay’s continued employment, stating he had undergone equality and diversity training from the Football Association after the incident.
Mackay was a bright young manager with a big future ahead of him, but he late his own prejudices get in the way of what was a blossoming career in management, and serves as a warning to others in the future to be more tolerant of other people. What he did with Cardiff will never be forgotten, bit it will be a footnote in a career that was nipped in the bud due to his horrible comments. He would be held up as one of the greatest Cardiff City manager, but his legacy has been tarnished by his biggoted views.
And Neil Warnock then eclipsed him in every single way.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.