Malky Mackay was fired from his post as Cardiff City manager less than 24 hours after a 3-0 loss at home to Southampton on Boxing Day.
Following their defeat, Mackay's Cardiff were left just one point above the relegation zone in 16th place. Just one win in their last eight games was enough for owner Vincent Tan, as he finally followed through on his endless threats. Not a very Merry Christmas for the Mackays.
But it is off the field where the Cardiff controversy begins. Since his purchase of a controlling share in 2010, owner Tan has been desperate to stamp his authority on Cardiff City, whether it be his changing of the kit from blue to red or rearrangement of the club crest, both of which showed a lack of respect for the fans.
However, above all, Tan's public dealing with his manager has been the poorest reflection of his ability to run a football club. His relationship first began to outwardly deteriorate with club manager Mackay in October 2013 after he replaced director of recruitment Iain Moody with his son's 23-year-old friend Alisher Apsalamov, who had been on work experience at the club.
Moody was close with Mackay, having worked with him at Watford, and was instrumental in bringing in successful summer signings Gary Medel and Steven Caulker. At best, it seems an odd decision for Tan to replace an experienced member of staff with a friend of his son with no proper experience in football.
The businessman even managed to come up with an empty-looking excuse for the sacking of Moody, claiming that Moody and Mackay had overspent, a claim which was denied by both. Either way, such an action was indicative of the Malaysian's utter disrespect towards established members of staff and paved the way for Mackay's slow death.
Following the Moody incident, Tan then announced that Mackay would have no money to spend in January. This public announcement was totally bizarre on two fronts.
Firstly, such a decision was detrimental to the club, as the squad clearly needs strengthening. But secondly, the statement smacked of petty reprimanding, as though he were a father patronisingly taking away his son's pocket money in order to punish him, except that Mackay had done almost nothing wrong. Once again, the billionaire owner was showing how not to deal with a football manager: publicly and disrespectfully.
The saga came to a head on December 16 when the Scottish manager received an email from Tan which effectively provided him with the ultimatum of 'resign or be sacked'. The email also listed all of Tan's grievances with Mackay.
This incident displayed an irrevocable distance between himself and Mackay, and thus from Cardiff City Football Club, with Tan not even having the decency to provide the dignity of a face-to-face meeting. The relationship between the manager and owner of a football club is vital to its success, and requires healthy communication and a shared direction for the club, but Tan seemed to be making no such efforts.
Tan even began to criticise City's style of play, showing a complete misunderstanding of the role of the owner in relation to the expert that he employs to run the footballing side of the club, proving Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers right when he stated: "My only conclusion is that you have a business guy, who knows absolutely nothing about football." Following the ultimatum, a valiant Mackay stated that "he will not resign". Less than two weeks later, he was sacked by Tan.
In purely footballing terms, however, Mackay's sacking could be seen as a fair one. In the modern era of football, managers are required to get results - and fast. Cardiff City's opening half of the season under Mackay has left them in a perilous position, and it is not unusual nowadays to see managers fired midseason if their team is underperforming.
In fact, the Scotsman could count himself fairly lucky not to have been dismissed earlier, considering the five managerial casualties already in the Premier League this season.
Yet, one of the most upsetting consequences of the Tan-Mackay battle has been the on-field performances. There is undoubtedly a link between the off-field health of a club and its performance on the pitch; the atmosphere and mood of the environment all around Cardiff City FC, whether in the boardroom or the training pitch, must have been one of absolute friction and pressure. It is not an unlikely theory, therefore, that Tan's actions contributed to the downfall in results that eventually resulted in Mackay's sacking.
The club's results certainly correspond with the unsettling incidents. The Bluebirds had been sitting comfortably in 11th place at the end of September, before losing their way from October onwards following the shocking sacking of Iain Moody. The team's poor performances worsened in December as the off-field situation intensified, eventually leaving them in 16th.
Mackay even admitted he was aware of this effect; when asked if he thought that the situation could hamper their attempts to stay in the Premier League, he responded: "Yes, absolutely."
Perhaps it was an inevitability that Tan would eventually want to make his mark on the managerial division of the club. However, his actions that followed this desire displayed no measure of respectability whatsoever, and prove that the proud Welsh football club of Cardiff City are being run by no more than a faceless businessman. But possibly even more importantly, Tan's recent mishandling of the club may have critically damaged City's chances of surviving relegation.
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