It was, considering everything, not the most earth-shattering news of the season that we’ve seen so far, but the decision of the owner of Cardiff City Football Club to relieve Malky Mackay of his position as manager of the club still seems likely to further sour the atmosphere at The Cardiff City Stadium in the near future. A first season back in the Premier League for a little over half a century and the opportunity to resume hostilities against rivals Swansea City should really have been a cause for considerable celebration on the part of the club’s supporters, but it certainly feels as if the experience of Cardiff City of supporters so far this season has been significantly tainted by the autocratic nature of the behaviour of the club’s owner, Vincent Tan.
On the surface, though, it’s worth mentioning in the interests of balance that there was an arguable case for changing the manager of the club at this stage of the season. Cardiff have won just two Premier League matches since the end of September and sit just one point above the relegation places at the time of writing. The harsh truth of the matter is that, in the current hire ’em and fire’ em environment of the Premier League at the moment, managers have been sacked for less. And it is also worth pointing out that, with the shambolic handling of the matter by the club itself, Mackay will leave the club with his contract paid up and his reputation largely intact. Tan, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to know when to shut up, as evinced by the statement that he issued to Sky Sports News earlier this afternoon:
There has been a good deal of publicity generated by, and about, Mr Malky Mackay for the last few months. Indeed, far too much dirty linen has been exposed to the public gaze but, I stress, not by me. Indeed, I have deliberately not responded to this, hoping that the club can be judged on its football rather than personalised arguments about who said what to whom. I have, however, regretfully concluded that it is no longer fair to the club, its players, its fans and the public more generally for this uncomfortable state of affairs to continue. Cardiff City Football Club means far too much to us all for it to be distracted by this.
The level of anger at the departure of the manager from this club at this time, however, tells a story of its own about the recent turbulence at The Cardiff City Stadium. The sense of discontent with Tan hanging over the club all stems, of course, from his rebranding of Cardiff City Football Club, changing the club’s colours and badge during the summer of 2012. A good number of Cardiff supporters were outraged by what was considered to be a desecration of the club’s heritage by the owner, although many more seemed happy to accept it on account of the money that he put into the club as part of its take-over, and protests became further dissipated as the club won promotion to the Premier League at the end of last season.
That promotion, however, has completely killed the memory of what happened off the pitch at The Cardiff City Stadium last season, and further rumours coming out of the club earlier this season regarding Tan’s ham-fisted attempts to meddle in playing matters coupled with the departure of former Head of Recruitment Iain Moody adding to the sense that the owner of the club is treating the club as a plaything rather than acting as its custodian. As such, it hardly seems implausible to consider the reaction to the – completely needless – pressure put upon Mackay as being something of a barometer for a more general sense of dissatisfaction with the way in which the club has been run of late.
It’s true to say that there only seemed to be a small proportion of the club’s support who were so angry at the rebranding of the club that they walked away from it altogether. At the same time, however, and much as we might have expected, there seldom seemed to vast numbers who were in full support of the rebranding and for whom Tan (or, more specifically, Tan’s money) was a means to an end. As such, the stories that circulated earlier this season seem to have acted as a catalyst towards anger for a larger number of supporters than the rebranding ever did and the impromptu protest held against him at Anfield last week seemed to indicate a raw touched nerve over Tan’s treatment of the manager.
But, while the temptation for those who have been implacably against Tan since the rebranding to say “I told you so” may be close to overwhelming this afternoon, perhaps what the supporters of Cardiff City Football Club need at this moment in time more than anything else is a bit of unity. One of the most significant aspects of the protests that started over the rebranding last year was the way in which those protests started to ebb away after threats were made – most notably at a meeting of the Keep Cardiff Blue campaign in July 2012 – against those that were looking to protest at that time. Whether those voices would be as aggressive again should the protests that seem likely to resurface come to pass is not a question that is necessarily easy to answer.
Which way next, though, for Cardiff City, the club’s supporters, and Vincent Tan? Well, first up is the small matter of finding a replacement and the bookmakers seem to be of the opinion that the former Manchester United player Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is odds-on to get the job. Whether this happens or not is a question that only the future can answer, but there may well be few outside of the club who will envy the new incumbent into the position. With an expensively-assembled but misfiring squad and an owner who has given every impression of being the sort that largely makes this “running a football club” business up as he goes along, the new manager, whoever that turns out to be, will certainly have their work cut out in order to steer the club clear of relegation in a competitive division. And all of this is only a matter of the short-term. Quite what other plans Tan has in place for the club in the medium term future remain, for now, a matter for speculation. It seems unlikely that Cardiff City’s winter of discontent has ended just yet.
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