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Why I love Malky Mackay

Friday 2nd December 2011
Being a Cardiff City supporter you're never too far away from the next big possible tragedy. Over the last 20 years I've been witness to a few of them myself. I've seen transfer embargoes placed on us over unpaid tax bills. I've seen us lose 6-0 to Preston North End and 7-2 to Cambridge United. I've seen our old chairman Rick Wright down Barry Island selling our monstrous/beautiful (delete as appropriate) 1993/1994 3rd shirts for a fiver to make some cash for the kitty. I've seen our player's end of year party being cancelled due to a lack of funds and I've seen us beating Peterborough United comfortably 4-0 only to drive home wondering how the hell we managed to share the points and go home drawing 4-4.

Nothing felt as bad as our bubble bursting at the end of last season as we fell from Championship winning certainties to Play-off also-rans. While our friends down the M4 went to Wembley and took it all. We had it all in our hands. We had the big name players, your Bellamy's, Chopra's and your Bothroyd's. We had our old hero Jason Koumas back at the centre of our midfield. We had Peter Whittingham who only months earlier finished the season as the 2009/2010 Championship's top scorer and was garnering bids of £3m+ from the Premiership. We even got our prodigy genius child Aaron Ramsey back in for a couple of games in the Winter.

None of this mattered in the end. For as much as we put 4 past Leeds United on a cold Winter's night, and for as much as we may have beaten our old adversaries Swansea City on their own patch and even taken 4 points from our eventual automatic promotion robbing friends at Norwich City, we failed.
It was painful to come home from games having seen at least half of the team not playing with any sort of enthusiasm or passion. It hurt going away to places like Reading on a freezing November night and seeing the boys run straight off the pitch at the final whistle, not even bothering to applaud or acknowledge us in any way. What hurt the most was hearing Dave Jones muster five or six words to the press post-match, most of which would centre around 'What can you do?' or 'They always want more, in this part of the world.'

Dave Jones was a great manager, probably the best manager we've ever had in modern times. He took us from being a mid table Championship side full of journeyman into a potential Premier League side. He gave us Wembley finals in the shape of 2008's FA Cup loss to Portsmouth and 2010's cruel play-off blow against Blackpool. However these both felt like over-achievements in the scale of things. We didn't have the squad to win that FA Cup final in the same way we didn't really have the squad to compete in the Premiership that year.
Cardiff City's 2010/2011 squad realistically, with the likes of Chopra, Bellamy, Ramsey, Bothroyd, Burke, Whittingham, Hudson, McNaughton, J-Lloyd Samuel should have made automatic promotion and when they didn't. Dave Jones's days were numbered. There's a long running joke on some of the Cardiff City fan forums that using skills gained from playing Championship Manager and the like, that most of us could have managed that team up to the Premiership.

Enter Malky Mackay, a young Scottish manager full of enthusiasm and what we at Cardiff City have been looking and begging for for years: A Plan B when things aren't going our way.

Malky was quoted in the press recently saying something along the lines of he realised the size of the task ahead of him when he turned up to our first pre-season training session to find 8 or 9 senior professionals and 5 or 6 academy graduates all jogging around the field aimlessly. Our superstars had all left, either on to better things (Bellamy and Bothroyd), arguably settling for lower reaches (Burke and Chopra) or being consigned to the football scrapheap (Olofinjana, Koumas and Bywater).

Malky brought in a handful of young and enthusiastic players with an incredible work ethic, players like Andrew Taylor and Don Cowie who may not have the glamour and lucre associated with some of last year's prima-donna collective, but have a proven track record at this sort of level. We took chances of the likes of freebie French youngster Rudy Gestede, who now seems nothing less than a £2m player. We spent big (in our scale of things) on the likes of Kenny Miller and Ben Turner.

No-one gave us a chance on the opening day against West Ham. Kevin Nolan even famously said that 'this is their cup final.' Everyone thought that after the mass Summer exodus we were going to be confined to mid-table obscurity. West Ham were inevitably going to tonk us 4-0 and that would be that. We soaked the pressure, Whittingham even cleared an effort off the line, the pasting was inevitable. That is until Rudy Gestede picked up on a loose ball and beat a West Ham defender off the ball. He ran into the penalty area, he passed the ball to Peter Whittingham. Kenny Miller intercepted, he fired what still looks like a mis-hit towards the goal. Rob Green, as Rob Green so famously does fumbled the ball.

The press would have had you believe that West Ham had already won the league, before they had even kicked a ball.

If that match had been played last year, we would have lost it 4-0. We'd have let in an early goal, our heads would have dropped. Dave Jones would not have been able to make a game altering change by way of any substitutions and we would have lost. The same has been true of so many games this season. I've walked away from the ground on many occasions, such as our 2-1 win over top of the table Southampton or our recent Carling Cup win over Blackburn and heard the same sentence over and over again 'Last year's team would have buckled and lost that one.' It's true.

Malky has brought a new found sense of optimism and pride to the club. We're a passionate bunch us Cardiff fans, and we're easy to please in a way. We don't necessarily want to go and win the Champion's League although it would be nice to see it happen in my lifetime. No, we just want to see our players go out there and work hard and play beautiful football. The rest, really is secondary.
The South Wales valleys is a unique place, so enshrined in our industrial heritage. One of our most famous fan chants goes "When the coal comes from the Rhondda, down the Taff Vale railway line. When the coal comes from the Rhondda, I'll be there. With my little pick and shovel, I'll be there." in reference to our mining past and the economic upsurge of Cardiff as a capital city due in no small part to the efforts of the small surround valleys. Malky knows about the wide spread of our fan base and he knows how best to take advantage of that. One of the biggest complaints amongst fans last year was the seeming lack of appreciation shown by players towards fans, especially on long journey away days like Middlesbrough and Scunthorpe. It was surely no coincidence that as soon as Mackay took control, our players now make a point of walking over to our section and applauding our support. The effect is reciprocal. The more players appreciate us, the more we appreciate them. Our away support has been terrific this season and on some of the cold wet nights like Southampton and Blackburn at home our fans have been incredible.

Our club hasn't been without it's lowpoints this season either. We've lost some of our friends, Mikey Dye who was tragically killed before the England V Wales game at Wembley in September. We've lost our international manager Gary Speed recently. Both of which were dealt with a sense of impeccable professionalism and dignity by our club. Such dignity and professionalism that I don't believe were present prior to this season's start and Mackay's arrival.

Malky has assembled a team of players who are willing to fight for each other. We may not be the most technically gifted team in the Championship, we may not have the cash reserves that Leicester City or West Ham have. We don't have as much Premier League experience in our ranks as the likes of Birmingham City or Blackpool. I'd wager that now have more heart and passion in this club than most, if not all clubs in this division.

Whether we get promoted at the end of the season is sort of irrelevant now for me. I'm enjoying watching Cardiff City now more than I have for a long time, probably since the 1993/94 season with Eddie May at the helm when we inexplicably managed to dump Manchester City out of the competition only to lose to struggling Luton Town in the next round.

I love Malky Mackay and I never want him to not be our manager. Even if he takes us down to the Conference.
Nicky Roberts

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