Malaysian owner’s interference likely to shorten Mackay’s stay at Cardiff City

Hosting Swansea City in big derby this weekend likely to prove the least of manager’s long-term problems

Malky Mackay was red with anger. Mackay is from Glasgow, so Alex Ferguson would have recognised the shining menace growing in Mackay's narrowing Keane-like beady eyes. Malky Mackay could scare a man.

And this was after Mackay’s team, Cardiff City, had won. But Big Malky was annoyed by a late red card shown to one of his players and now, in Barnsley’s caravan of a press room, Mackay was increasingly vexed by a photographer packing away his equipment. You could feel Mackay’s intolerance swell like an angry sea. There followed a brief exchange. Mackay spoke, the photographer stopped, the room froze.

A question or so later and Mackay was up, his centre-half’s thighs carrying him with impatient muscularity into the wet Yorkshire gloom. Reporters looked at one another, fiddled with their pens.

Barnsley 1 Cardiff 2, this month last year, was a result that kept the Welsh club top of the Championship. Victory at misty Oakwell meant a one-point advantage over Leicester City at the top was maintained, and by May it was extended. Cardiff would go on to win the division by eight points from Hull.


It meant Cardiff City were back in the top-flight for the first time since 1962; it meant that, among other things, they would again be playing fixtures against Swansea City.

Cardiff possesses a capital city's sense of order. The place, the club, the fans had been disconcerted to find that while Cardiff were continually approaching the Premier League under manager Dave Jones, only to fail, while 40 miles away Swansea City were passing their way to economic prosperity and national admiration on a Championship budget their chairman Huw Jenkins assessed as "above Scunthorpe's, around Barnsley's".

The prospect
If you described Cardiff as miffed when it came to Swansea's rise, you would not be wrong. So last season's promotion and the prospect of Cardiff-Swansea tomorrow should be soothing, signs of arrival and return to order.

But Cardiff City still feels like a club irritated, conflicted, angry. On Thursday they were charged by the FA over confrontations at Norwich last Saturday.

While Swansea remain 20 per cent owned by the local Supporters' Trust – even as they go to Wembley to win the League Cup and to Europe to wallop Valencia – Cardiff City are 51 per cent owned by a Malaysian businessman called Vincent Tan.

Tan seems to think it is a good idea to annoy Malky Mackay. Tan seems to think it is a good idea to alienate chunks of Cardiff’s fanbase.

Because of Tan’s decisions, Cardiff City, who have played in blue since turning professional in 1908, wear red. Their nickname is the Bluebirds. They wear red. There has not been a convincing reason given for this change but when Cardiff face Swansea tomorrow in the first-ever South Wales top-flight derby, the Bluebirds will not be in blue. Blue is now their away kit.

Also because of Tan, Cardiff no longer employ Iain Moody, who was Mackay's head of recruitment. Moody was recently relieved of his position as Tan thought he spent too much, a claim Mackay has challenged in quite a moody fashion. In Moody's place is now a friend of Tan's son.

How much longer Mackay can put up with this is a question. In a way it is surprising that this interference has not already seen him walk.

Bonus payments
Then there was the players' bonus scheme. Prior to the home game with Newcastle United four weeks ago, it emerged that the club hierarchy and the players disagreed over some bonus payments. By half- time against Newcastle, Cardiff were 2-0 down and lost 2-1. It could have been coincidence.

Swansea also lost that weekend, 2-0 at Southampton, but aside from a spike of pre-season anxiety as to Michael Laudrup’s future, the club appears mature and serene, particularly when set beside Cardiff. And others – considering the Premier League doubles as the Promised Land, you can witness anger throughout.

South Wales has this week reflected on previous, non top-flight, derbies between Cardiff and Swansea. There has been a focus on tension and violence and tomorrow’s is a ‘bubble’ match in policing terms – Swansea’s fans will come and go in a bubble of police protection. It is parochial and unimpressive but increasingly the norm.

Those who can see beyond Swansea will have noted that it is a trip to Aston Villa next followed by Arsenal and Manchester United in the Welsh capital. In terms of Cardiff’s long-term objective, which presumably is consolidation, those games matter every bit as much as the visit from the neighbours.

What should matter to Cardiff fans is how their club is being run and what effects Vincent Tan’s decisions have on the manager/team; and where both will be one year from now, establishing themselves in the Premier League, or back at Barnsley, red in the face?