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Mackay has clear vision of where he is going and how he is going to get there

IT has been 20 years since Malky Mackay pulled on a Queen's Park jersey, but sitting at Hampden yesterday, the Cardiff City manager gave convincing testimony that a first love defies time and circumstance.

Malky Mackay was speaking at the Scottish FA's UEFA Pro Licence course at Hampden Park yesterday. Visit www.scottishfa.co.uk/coacheducation for information on all coaching courses available.
Malky Mackay was speaking at the Scottish FA's UEFA Pro Licence course at Hampden Park yesterday. Visit www.scottishfa.co.uk/coacheducation for information on all coaching courses available.

"When my team Queen's Park were playing Rangers the other week, I got to the Cardiff City ground early before our game and stuck it on," said Mackay. "All of the TVs in the lounges and concourses are served by the same Sky box which is in my office. Sunderland-Tottenham was on another channel at the same time, but I stuck Queen's Park on and was delighted to see them doing really well against Rangers in front of 30,000 fans.

"Suddenly, the stadium manager came in and said all hell was breaking loose upstairs because they all wanted to watch Sunderland-Spurs. I told him: 'Out – they won't be watching it until I finish here'."

Mackay, whose playing career took him from the Spiders to Celtic, Norwich and West Ham United, smiles as he recounts his story but it is not only revealing of his enduring affection for a club but his ability to state clearly what he wants. Now 40, Mackay is one of football's nice guys but he is as uncompromising as a manager as he once was as a traditional centre-half.

A highly promising two years as manager of Watford has been followed by a dramatic start at Cardiff. The Welsh side made the play-offs and the final of the Carling Cup but lost to West Ham United and Liverpool (on penalties) respectively.

However, this promising introduction has simply put more pressure on the manager. A three-year rebuilding plan was suddenly revamped by the Malaysian owners.

"They said: 'Right, we are going to try to get promoted now'. It heightens expectancy among the fans. There is excitement all of a sudden and you have to deal with it. But I'd rather have that than be scraping around, battling relegation with a team fighting to avoid going into administration," he said.

Instead, Cardiff are seven points clear at the top of the Championship, allowing the manager some wriggle room and not just in his choice of satellite TV game.

He admits the Queen's Park v Rangers match did have a wider interest than just the manager's office at Cardiff.

"Down in England, they are still stunned that Rangers are playing in the bottom division and can't believe the Old Firm game isn't happening any more,'' said Mackay. "It's incredible that Sky are showing Scottish third division games.''

Mackay, of course, is consumed by Cardiff's tilt at the Barclays Premier League but allows himself to be diverted at Hampden by more parochial matters. He was diplomatic but dismissive of Celtic's chances of being allowed into the most lucrative league in the world.

Next season Cardiff could join Swansea City in the Premier League – what price a Scottish club joining the two Welsh ones?

"The fact the Welsh teams have always been involved in the English league makes it different," he said, adding of Celtic: "I don't think it's something in the short term that I'm going to see in football.

"It's funny, but we even need to ask for international clearance for loan deals because we're Welsh. We had a wee issue last year because Wrexham weren't in the league and Swansea were in the Premiership so we were the only Welsh team in the Football League.

"That meant a loan from someone to Newcastle United to ourselves during the season was something UEFA stopped us doing because we're Welsh and they didn't recognise it. Eventually it was sorted out."

Mackay believes any Celtic departure from Scotland would mean "a diluted league – massively". He concedes, though, that Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, may have a decision to make as his reputation increases in tandem with a successful group campaign in the Champions League.

"Beating Barcelona – the best team in the world " and getting to the last 16 of the Champions League has been fantastic," said Mackay. "That result raised eyebrows down south but people are more intrigued about the Rangers situation, and them not being in the league."

Of Lennon's credentials for a post in an English league, Mackay said: "He is already at a huge club and you'd need to ask him about his own ambitions. He's beaten Barcelona in the Champions League in front of 60,000. Where do you go from there?

"Do you go to a club that gets 20,000 fans? Or do you go to a club that is in the top four? What do you move to from Celtic?

"Is it a step up or a step sideways, or is it a stepping stone to something bigger? Or do you want to keep managing Celtic, win as many titles as you can and get into the Champions League as many times as possible? That's a question for Neil."

He is more direct on the need for change in Scotland's league set-up as the clubs meet today to discuss a revamp.

"Every club needs to be playing for something for as long as possible in the season," he said. "We need to get to that point.

"A couple of seasons ago, QPR were the only team in the Championship with nothing to play for with two games to go. They were in mid-table and they couldn't get to the play-offs or be relegated.

"However it is cut up, Scotland has to make sure there are no dead games with a long period of the season to go.

"The play-offs in English football are brilliant. I've been involved in them for 15 years and the excitement surrounding the semi-finals and final is unbelievable."

With 20 games to go, however, it is an eventuality Mackay wishes to avoid. Automatic promotion, after all, would mean Mackay could put his feet up and watch it all on television.

n Malky Mackay was speaking at the Scottish FA's UEFA Pro Licence course at Hampden Park. Visit www.scottishfa.co.uk/coacheducation for information on all coaching courses available.

IT has been 20 years since Malky Mackay pulled on a Queen's Park jersey, but sitting at Hampden yesterday, the Cardiff City manager gave convincing testimony that a first love defies time and circumstance. "When my team Queen's Park were playing Rangers the other week, I got to the Cardiff City ground early before our game and stuck it on," said Mackay. "All of the TVs in the lounges and concourses are served by the same Sky box which is in my office. Sunderland-Tottenham was on another channel at the same time, but I stuck Queen's Park on and was delighted to see them doing really well against Rangers in front of 30,000 fans.

"Suddenly, the stadium manager came in and said all hell was breaking loose upstairs because they all wanted to watch Sunderland-Spurs. I told him: 'Out – they won't be watching it until I finish here'."

Mackay, whose playing career took him from the Spiders to Celtic, Norwich and West Ham United, smiles as he recounts his story but it is not only revealing of his enduring affection for a club but his ability to state clearly what he wants. Now 40, Mackay is one of football's nice guys but he is as uncompromising as a manager as he once was as a traditional centre-half.

A highly promising two years as manager of Watford has been followed by a dramatic start at Cardiff. The Welsh side made the play-offs and the final of the Carling Cup but lost to West Ham United and Liverpool (on penalties) respectively.

However, this promising introduction has simply put more pressure on the manager. A three-year rebuilding plan was suddenly revamped by the Malaysian owners.

"They said: 'Right, we are going to try to get promoted now'. It heightens expectancy among the fans. There is excitement all of a sudden and you have to deal with it. But I'd rather have that than be scraping around, battling relegation with a team fighting to avoid going into administration," he said.

Instead, Cardiff are seven points clear at the top of the Championship, allowing the manager some wriggle room and not just in his choice of satellite TV game.

He admits the Queen's Park v Rangers match did have a wider interest than just the manager's office at Cardiff.

"Down in England, they are still stunned that Rangers are playing in the bottom division and can't believe the Old Firm game isn't happening any more,'' said Mackay. "It's incredible that Sky are showing Scottish third division games.''

Mackay, of course, is consumed by Cardiff's tilt at the Barclays Premier League but allows himself to be diverted at Hampden by more parochial matters. He was diplomatic but dismissive of Celtic's chances of being allowed into the most lucrative league in the world.

Next season Cardiff could join Swansea City in the Premier League – what price a Scottish club joining the two Welsh ones?

"The fact the Welsh teams have always been involved in the English league makes it different," he said, adding of Celtic: "I don't think it's something in the short term that I'm going to see in football.

"It's funny, but we even need to ask for international clearance for loan deals because we're Welsh. We had a wee issue last year because Wrexham weren't in the league and Swansea were in the Premiership so we were the only Welsh team in the Football League.

"That meant a loan from someone to Newcastle United to ourselves during the season was something UEFA stopped us doing because we're Welsh and they didn't recognise it. Eventually it was sorted out."

Mackay believes any Celtic departure from Scotland would mean "a diluted league – massively". He concedes, though, that Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, may have a decision to make as his reputation increases in tandem with a successful group campaign in the Champions League.

"Beating Barcelona – the best team in the world " and getting to the last 16 of the Champions League has been fantastic," said Mackay. "That result raised eyebrows down south but people are more intrigued about the Rangers situation, and them not being in the league."

Of Lennon's credentials for a post in an English league, Mackay said: "He is already at a huge club and you'd need to ask him about his own ambitions. He's beaten Barcelona in the Champions League in front of 60,000. Where do you go from there?

"Do you go to a club that gets 20,000 fans? Or do you go to a club that is in the top four? What do you move to from Celtic?

"Is it a step up or a step sideways, or is it a stepping stone to something bigger? Or do you want to keep managing Celtic, win as many titles as you can and get into the Champions League as many times as possible? That's a question for Neil."

He is more direct on the need for change in Scotland's league set-up as the clubs meet today to discuss a revamp.

"Every club needs to be playing for something for as long as possible in the season," he said. "We need to get to that point.

"A couple of seasons ago, QPR were the only team in the Championship with nothing to play for with two games to go. They were in mid-table and they couldn't get to the play-offs or be relegated.

"However it is cut up, Scotland has to make sure there are no dead games with a long period of the season to go.

"The play-offs in English football are brilliant. I've been involved in them for 15 years and the excitement surrounding the semi-finals and final is unbelievable."

With 20 games to go, however, it is an eventuality Mackay wishes to avoid. Automatic promotion, after all, would mean Mackay could put his feet up and watch it all on television.

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