The Obituary Column: Farewell, Malky Mackay and Cardiff City's sanity

Ben Hoskins

Malky Mackay looks certain to get the chop at Cardiff City, with Vincent Tan running the club at his own personal whimsy. We say a heartfelt goodbye.

It must seem at first to be pretty bizarre to read your own obituary before you're actually dead, but there is a logic to this. It has been touted at times as a self-actualisation exercise - one writes one's own Times spread as they would like it to be - after drunkenly dropping dead in their mansion on the south coast of France, with their lover so upset at the news that they had to take a year out from modelling to recover, and so on. This leads to the realisation that their own life is a miserable slog through unwanted trivialities, and they can thus grow as a person, or something.

So on that theme, perhaps Malky Mackay can console himself and look to the future by reading the rumours of his own demise, which are certainly not exaggerated. The football world will rightly gather in indignation and protest at the latest actions of Vincent Tan at Cardiff City, with Mackay looking destined for the shove as the club enters its latest PR disaster.

Tan, for all his faults, is at least an entertainingly shocking chairman. Plenty of others would simply slowly pile up unsustainable levels of debt in order to sign Craig Gardner and Gary O'Neil. But Tan is a true madman, someone who is as likely to decide to have a go at managing the team himself as pull off any accidental masterstrokes. So while we are all united in our condemnation, we are also united in our laughter.

It's not a recent phenomenon. Cardiff are a fat guy falling into a canal, a man having his suitcase fall open in the middle of the airport - tragic, probably undeserved, but ultimately a situation to which the vast majority of people will react to with amusement and thanking their god that it wasn't them. And nor are Tan's actions a recent phenomenon either. Perhaps his reign will be short, tempestuous, and he'll storm off in a fit leaving some local businessman to return the old crest and strip. Or perhaps success will consign the dissenters to the dustbin of history. Victory triumphs over everything.

Jimmy Hill, who occupies a weird position in English football history in 2013 as the ultimate embodiment of old-school traditionalism, yet a man who set much of the reforms that led to modern football, in all it's glory and dread, in place, was one example. As chairman of Coventry City, he decided to change the club strip to a light blue so they might be known as "The Sky Blues" because it was more marketable. At the same time, he introduced tacky, gaudy half-time entertainment, the kind of pile-em-high-sell-em-low tat that only someone with a true contempt for the working-classes can produce. He was ahead of his time, and proved that that old epitaph is not always a compliment.

There have been many other examples of similarly unpopular moves. Leeds United under Don Revie changed to a white strip in order to look like Real Madrid. The town of Inverness did the truly unthinkable and merged its two rival clubs in a bid to escape the prison of the Highland Football League. None of those motives are better than Tan's. All of them were met with various levels of derision and revulsion, but now all those rebels are forgotten. Why? Because the teams in question then went on to achieve success.

So far, Cardiff have not achieved anything except promotion. If they do succeed, there is little doubt that the old colours, with their solitary FA Cup in their century, will be gone forever. As for replacing Mackay, they'll probably be OK. There are plenty of failed managers for whom Cardiff would represent a superb opportunity to get back into the game -- the Gary Megsons of the world -- and those who seem to have the power to gain any job going, like Michael Appleton. The only people to rule out are those who are uncomfortable either working with Tan or going into a club where the entire fanbase will immediately despite them as one of his stooges. For once, the odds column in the betting markets will rate managers not by reputation, but simply list their lack of dignity in raw numbers.

Unusually though, this may be good for Mackay. The Scot has done well with what is one of the poorest squads in the league, and took complete control of an extremely competitive division with a worse side and stronger opponents than Cardiff had while foundering in the playoffs in seasons past. But with a nod to stopped clocks, Tan is half-right in his criticism - Mackay has also overspent on a load of rubbish.

John Brayford was never going to be a Premier League player. Andreas Cornelius was a pointless risk this season. Prior to getting promoted, Mackay built a squad of Championship lifers, allowing him to edge out the rest of the competition but leaving the club with far too much to spend once they came up. His good buys - Gary Medel, Steven Caulker, Jordon Mutch, Aron Gunnarsson - have all followed the same model - impressive coups, but no prizes for guessing they'd be good signings.

If Tan simply stated there was no more money to spend without going rogue over it, then it's entirely possible Cardiff would go down this season, and Mackay would be another in the long list of managers filed under 'can't hack it in the Premier League.' As it is, he gets the opportunity to leave with his stock at its apogee, and thought of a saint for being patient enough to endure working with a madman. Maybe he'll take over at West Brom, where he'll replace Steve Clarke with Steve Clarke. Maybe Tottenham will be knocked back by every other manager around and have to turn to him, since he won't be doing any transfers anyway. Whatever happens, Mackay will have done well in profiting from lunacy. And isn't that pretty much a football manager's job description?

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