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Mackay eyes life in the wilderness after pressing delete on his own prospects

THE news agenda will move on from Malky Mackay in the next two or three days.

The Scot -  a seemingly affable sort - appears to have revealed his true self. Picture: PA
The Scot - a seemingly affable sort - appears to have revealed his true self. Picture: PA

Soon he'll find the silence as chilling as the pandemonium. It's a reasonable bet that his phone will be ablaze with calls, voicemails and texts right now - oh, the irony - as his friends and peers rally to offer him their private support. He's at the centre of a scandal of his own making and the interview conducted by Sky Sports News' David Tanner - in which he confessed, apologised and denied - made for compelling television. Mackay looked ashen and stressed, as you would expect. It has to be said, few were shedding any tears for him.

If there is more to come on this, none of it will be good for Mackay. Newspapers don't always deposit all of their devastating material in a single load when it comes to stories such as this. This may become a dripping roast, with more texts to be revealed. Within hours of the Sky interview being broadcast, with Mackay admitting to sending three offensive texts, the next edition of the Daily Mail was out and reporting another in which he allegedly called Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan "a chink". If there is any more of this nasty stuff still to be exposed Mackay will be too toxic to ever manage again. For some, the point already has been reached. Former FA chairman Lord Triesman already thinks he should be banned from football for a season.

Mackay has been in football all his life. It is his comfort zone. All he knows. Well, he is in a new world now. In the public consciousness he will now be permanently bracketed with the likes of Jade Goody and Ron Atkinson, celebrity figures defined by the racist episodes which became crossroads in their careers.

Goody was a tabloid darling until bullying Indian actress Shilpa Shetty - "Shilpa Poppadom", she called her - during Celebrity Big Brother in 2007, a disgusting spectacle which generated 54,000 complaints. Goody's "career" - whatever that was - went into a tailspin. There was some revision and her popularity recovered when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She died in 2009.

Even more germane for Mackay is the virtual disappearance of Ron Atkinson. It is 10 years and four months since Atkinson unwittingly took a flamethrower to his career by using the 'n word' to describe Chelsea's black defender Marcel Desailly. One phrase, which he thought was being said privately but was uttered in a press box with microphones switched on, sunk him. In an instant, the mask slipped and the public saw a new Atkinson. His life of clubby, self-satisfied inclusion was obliterated. Media contracts were ripped up and the work dried up. The phone stopped ringing. Today, all these years later, it's the first thing we associate with him.

Atkinson's remains a shredded, polluted, irreparable name. Employing him seems to be considered more trouble than it's worth. Mackay is going to be hearing plenty more about the likes of Jade Goody and "Big Ron" in the months and years to come. Goody went on the Indian version of Big Brother as she tried to salvage her reputation, Atkinson appeared on a BBC programme called "Excuse My French" where he had to learn the language and use it to analyse a match for a French radio station. The context for both of them was crystal clear: these two have been exposed for abusing "foreigners", let's make them squirm. Goody and Atkinson agreed to appear in pathetic, but predictable, attempts to reinvent themselves.

"It looks like she has ruined a very lucrative career," said Goody's publicist, Max Clifford (again, the irony). That's where Mackay stands today. He faces the very real prospect of no club taking him on again, no television channel or newspaper employing him as an analyst or columnist. People who know Mackay will say they are shocked by the revelations and insist they never saw him as a racist.

To those of us in the media he has seemed a pretty affable sort of guy, accessible and warm. Some of these texts hint at another character entirely. In one, reportedly sent by his similarly disgraced former head of recruitment, Iain Moody, the pair allegedly discussed a signing target who was likely to come because he considered another manager racist. "Thankfully he hasn't met you," Moody is alleged to have written. If true, it sounds like casual racism was routine between them.

Repairing a reputation after racism allegations is an almost impossible task. Time and genuine self-reflection can slowly turn the tide a little but Mackay could talk until he's blue in the face and the sincerity of his words will be picked apart and questioned. He could co-operate with no end of anti-discrimination projects and his motives will be seen as self-serving. It is hard to see where he goes next, what he can do other than prepare for months of inactivity and exclusion, sitting beside a silent telephone, waiting to discover if there ever will be a way back.

Sometimes we're told that racism in football remains "rife". Supposedly the game has a "rotten" underbelly. These are big, broad generalisations which swirl around without real focus. Suddenly Mackay has become a lightning rod, the public seeing him as a face and a totem of football's underlying prejudices. It is the new baggage he can never leave behind.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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