The Scot’s dismissal does not come as a major surprise, which indicates just how the professional game has spawned into an unforgiving, ruthless endeavour at the top level.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who worked with Mackay at Watford, has labeled his former colleague as the best manager in Cardiff’s history. Looking at his achievements over the last two-and-a-half years with the Welsh club, there is a case to suggest that the Scot certainly deserves such high praise.
Mackay took over from Dave Jones in 2011, with Cardiff having played in the second-tier of English football for the previous seven years. The Welsh club had forced its way up the divisions over 15 years, with the Bluebirds playing in English football’s fourth tier as recently as the 2000-01 campaign.
In the Scot’s first season in charge at Cardiff, the club finished sixth in the Championship and made the dreaded play-offs for the third consecutive year. Again it was not the Welsh club’s time to return to the biggest stage, as West Ham ended the supporters’ long-standing dreams.
The same season, Cardiff had defied the odds to make it to the final of the League Cup, but were cruelly beaten on penalties by Liverpool.
Last term, with Mackay’s methods firmly in place at the Cardiff City Stadium, the Welsh club made no mistake in their desire to play Premier League football, winning the Championship to secure their progression to the top flight for the first time in 51 years.
Cardiff won the division by eight points, with the core of the side put together by Mackay and acting under his pinpoint instruction.
Any newly promoted side to the Premier League is going to face a real fight in their first season to stay in the division – Cardiff have found the going tough at times this term. As such, the Welsh club sits precariously a point above the relegation places with only four wins from their first 18 matches. A 3-2 home win over the superstar-laden Manchester City has been the club’s proudest moment this season.
Despite the chance of relegation, whoever takes over from Mackay will almost certainly have this threat not far away for the remainder of the season. The fans’ commitment to their manager has been evident in recent games, with Mackay a firm favourite amongst the team’s support for obvious reasons.
Despite this, the working relationship between manager and eccentric owner Vincent Tan has led to the dismissal of Mackay. The Welsh club was forced to change their iconic blue strip to a red one, unfathomable in many people’s eyes, and a clear indication that Tan has no sympathy or attachment to the club’s past. Head of recruitment Iain Moody’s sacking to be replaced by 23-year-old Kazakh Alisher Apsalyamov, who allegedly had been working as a painter, was like something out of a distasteful movie.
Tan threatens to alienate himself further from the Cardiff fans with his dismissal of Mackay, and has unwittingly heightened his team’s chances of relegation by removing the architect of recent success.
In the broader perspective, Mackay’s dismissal is yet another example of a true football figure being disrespected and treated unfairly by money men who have no patience and little knowledge of how the game actually works.