MARK Warburton has given his backing to Malky Mackay for the role of SFA performance director and insisted the former Celtic central defender can disprove the notion that the job is a poisoned chalice. Mackay, who has been out of work since departing Wigan Athletic in November 2015, presented his ideas to the association this week as he closes in on the key role at the association which has been vacant ever since Brian McClair was sacked back in July.

The former Watford and Cardiff manager, who was manager at the Hertfordshire club whilst Warburton worked in the youth academy, also has the backing of Brendan Rodgers, although other names on the association's shortlist include John Collins, former Celtic recruitment supremo John Park, former Preston manager Alan Irvine and Northern Ireland assistant manager Austin MacPhee. The role involves implementing the association's controversial "Project Brave" development plan, which envisages a drastic cut of children in SFA-sponsored youth academies and an elite group of just eight academies.

“I know Malky very well," said Warburton. "If he got the job it would be a fantastic step in the right direction for Scottish football. He’s a man steeped in football. He’s also got a good business brain as he started in banking. He’s a great communicator on and off the pitch and he’s a proven winner.

"Thinking back to all the teams he played for, from Celtic, West Ham, Watford and Norwich, he’s won three promotions. As manager of Cardiff, he took them to the League Cup final and lost to Liverpool on penalties. He was promoted out of the toughest division in the world into the Premier League with Cardiff and he was never in the bottom four which is a magnificent achievement.

“Malky is brave enough to give youth a chance and he knows the standard required which is really important. At Watford it was tough times and he had to slash the wage bill but he brought a lot of players from the academy where I was working. There was Lee Hodson, who played 80 or 90 games for Watford in the Championship and guys like Marvin Sordell, who also came through the academy."

Initiated by McClair, Project Brave is only just past the planning stage but it has already proved controversial, with Motherwell manager Mark McGhee warning that his club "would fall off a cliff" if omitted from the list of these uber academies, franchises which are likely to be assessed to a set criteria on a five-year basis by the SFA. But Warburton feels Mackay has the kind of skill set required to force through the changes.

“All I ever hear is that this job is impossible," said the Rangers manager. "That is nonsense. If people are blocking progress then get rid of them. That is what you have to do. You keep hearing that this club won't have it and that club wont accept it. But the game has got to get better and sometimes there might be pain along the way. But, the clear goal must be to improve the pathway to the top.

“Don’t tell me there is no talent in Scotland. At the moment they are not being given the opportunity they need. If there is a stubbornness and a selfish interests then the game is never going to go forward.

“I know Malky could make a difference. You want someone who is positive, has good ideas and can communicate. Someone who can be out there on the grass and can deal with the boardroom as well.

“You also need someone who has an edge to them. You can’t be the perfect diplomat all the time. Sometimes you need an edge to push things through. You need someone to go in there with a hammer and get things done. We can’t be sitting here in 10 years' time and have the same situation again. At this moment there is a very evident problem.

“I can’t have people saying it is impossible to fix. There are good people out there and Malky is certainly one of them. I have no doubt he would do an outstanding job because he is passionate about it."

Mackay departed Cardiff in controversial circumstances, amid an FA probe into text messages in an exchange with Crystal Palace sporting director Iain Moody which he admitted were "disrespectful of other cultures" but Warburton said: "In my book there is no penance to pay. For me he is the perfect man manager and he more than deserves his chance.”