After the Alan Shearer distraction, things moved on at pace in the search for a new manager when Watford turned down a request from us to be allowed to talk to their manager Malky Mackay about filling the vacant position at Cardiff City Stadium. Watford Chairman Laurence Bassini appeared to offer little hope to City of them getting their man when quoted on the matter on the club’s website, but, significantly, his tone had softened a few hours later. Early on Thursday reports surfaced that Mackay had quit his job at Vicarage Road because he was being denied the chance to speak to Cardiff. This turned out not to be the case, but Mackay had made his club aware of his desire to listen to what we had to say and it wasn’t long before permission to do this was granted.
From here, there was always a feeling that City’s two and a half week search for a new manager was coming to an end and once an acceptable compensation figure (which I have seen reported to be as high as £1 million, but the often quoted figure of £300,000 would appear to be closer to the truth) had been agreed between the clubs, it seemed only a matter of time before the appointment was confirmed.
So, what sort of manager are we getting to replace Dave Jones? Well, despite fairly unspectacular finishing positions, Malky Mackay is largely thought to have over achieved at Watford in his two seasons with them when you consider that he was working with one of the smallest playing budgets in the Championship. In 2009/10 Watford flirted with the Play Offs for a while before dropping towards the relegation zone, but a rally in the final month of the campaign saw them survive pretty comfortably in sixteenth place. Last season though Watford looked to be genuine automatic promotion contenders around the turn of the year – their performance in inflicting QPR’s first defeat of the campaign (by 3-1 at Loftus Road) was as good as any I saw from a Championship side in 10/11 and they were far too strong for us in their 4-1 win at Vicarage Road just over a fortnight later. Within three weeks, Watford were visiting us on the back of a run of six consecutive league wins, but with their central midfield decimated by injuries and loan recalls, they were 3-0 down a little over half an hour into the game. From there though, they rallied so well that they were back at 3-2 early in the second half and the next half an hour or so made for very uncomfortable viewing as they took the game to City before a late goal made the game safe for us.
From there though, Watford tailed off rather and I suppose a finishing position of fourteenth was a disappointment given the heady heights reached in January. Things have to be looked at in context though and Watford’s was that, just as in Malky Mackay’s first season in charge, many had his team down as relegation material before a ball was kicked. It was not just that Watford were doing better than most thought they would though, it was that they were doing so by playing attractive and progressive football . Although I didn’t agree with them, there were plenty of City fans who thought Mackay’s men were the best opposing team to visit Cardiff City Stadium last season. What was not in doubt though was Watford’s goal power – only Norwich and Leeds scored more goals than them, they were the Championship’s highest scorers away from home and they had the division’s leading scorer in Danny Graham.
Speaking as someone who has had Malky Mackay as their number one choice for manager for about ten days, I have to say I’m pleased by the appointment and he made a good first impression in his press conference yesterday (Cardiff City World subscribers can watch it here) – he certainly seems to have impressed the local media who were actually allowed to attend! Although he wasn’t the one who set it up, Watford’s youth Academy is one of the best around and it would be great if Malky Mackay was able to get something similar set up at Cardiff – the Watford Academy and much of Mackay’s football philosophy is described in this long but impressive interview from last March.
First priority for our new manager though has to be getting new players good enough to challenge for a first team place in quickly – he won’t find too many there in our current Academy team I’m afraid. Because we have lost so many players. the excuse used by many new managers that their under performing side is one they inherited, not their own won’t ring as true for Malky Mackay because there has to be every chance that his first choice starting eleven will include five or six players not at the club at present. Also, the tone adopted by himself and Chief Executive Gethin Jenkins in the press conference yesterday was not one which suggested that consolidation was an option – it appears that Mackay will have the funds available to attract quality players and, in that sense, I’m not sure that expectation levels will be too much lower than last season by the time the new campaign kicks off. However, although it has to be said that there are those who are not convinced by him at the moment, I’m optimistic that our new manager will prove himself up to the task – welcome to Cardiff Malky Mackay.