Mackay backed by fans and peers

Posted by Mike Morris

Malky Mackay applauds the Cardiff fans at Anfield.GettyImagesMalky Mackay applauds the Cardiff fans at Anfield.

Malky Mackay stood tall and proud as the final whistle blew on Liverpool's 3-1 win over Cardiff City at Anfield on Saturday.

It's been the most incredible week for Mackay and Cardiff City after the owner, Vincent Tan, emailed the manager requesting him to stand down or be sacked. Mackay refused to resign and vowed to continue doing his job and, on Sunday, Tan lifted the threat to fire the 41-year-old.

The support from the Cardiff City fans and the football world in general has been unanimous in its backing of Mackay, and the condemnation of Tan, who has a history of making bizarre decisions.

- Mackay: I won't quit Cardiff

In 2012, Cardiff City fans, myself included, tolerated the change of club colours from the traditional blue to red. At the time a story was painted that the club needed to be red, or it would be dead. However, it turns out that the trampling of the Bluebirds' identity was just on the whim of Tan and his liking of the "lucky" colour red. The rebrand has caused divisions among the fans ever since, but promotion to the Premier League was seen as a victory for the change.

Yet all along there has been an underlying unease at the rebrand. Many fans walked away from Cardiff, to be replaced with "plastic" fans, who are just happy to see the Premier League. Many others have felt guilty that they didn't do enough to stop Tan from imposing his wishes.

It's taken until this week, and the ultimatum to Mackay, for the fan base to finally rally together and make a statement against Tan. It should have been done when the colour change was announced, but the ominous threat of extinction and the lure of 100 million pounds saw the majority elect to swallow it despite the bitter taste.

All the while Mackay went about his job, and even those who questioned his acceptance of the change (some believe he should have quit when the club's identity was destroyed) watched on as he took the club to the Premier League when others had failed.

For many, Tan overstepped the mark this week with his threat of sacking Mackay for apparent "overspending" and "poor tactics." Tan's naivety did not factor in that 35 million pounds on players does not guarantee a top-ten place in the Premier League, but it gives you a damn good chance of surviving.

Mackay has retained his dignity this past week and has overcome the humiliation heaped on him by his employers.

Now the fans have made their statement and Tan will finally be aware that his way is not always the best way. The supporters have stood up to the owner and made their objections known. Something the people advising Tan have failed to do, and something the supporters should have done in May 2012.

But it's not just the fans; Mackay has received phenomenal support from his peers this week, especially from his Liverpool counterpart ...

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers stuck up for his friend, and when asked about what he thought about Tan and the situation at Cardiff, Rodgers replied:

"My only conclusion is you have a business guy operating the club who knows absolutely nothing about football. He has obviously been a successful businessman -- congratulations, but football is like no other business," Rodgers said.

"When I see what Malky has had to put up with, to see him being questioned, I find it remarkable. Especially when supporters there look up to him and respect him for what he's done."

Mackay missed Cardiff's pre-match news conference, leaving his assistant Dave Kerslake to face the bombardment from the journalists. Malky was back in full control at Anfield as he fulfilled his media duties.

When asked before kickoff about the situation he finds himself in, he said, "My duty today is to my team, my football club and my support." Asked about the support from the fans and the football world, he said, "It's humbling."

Tan was in the crowd at Anfield and was made fully aware of the thoughts of the Cardiff fans, who sang constantly for 90 minutes in support of Mackay as he led his side to defeat -- although not the battering it looked like it could be at half-time.

This was the first league meeting between Liverpool and Cardiff in 54 years. On Dec. 19, 1959, the last game the teams played in the league at Anfield ended Liverpool 0-4 Cardiff. It was Bill Shankly's first game in charge of Liverpool.

Cardiff were competing for the opening 25 minutes of this game, and while they were under pressure from the home side they were able to keep Liverpool out and even forced a couple of chances of their own. The best of which, from a breakaway, saw Craig Noone shoot on target from outside the box. Simon Mignolet, with a diving save, pushed it away for a corner.

Jordon Mutch saw a glancing header go wide and Steven Caulker had a half-hearted shout for a penalty as his shirt was pulled by Martin Skrtel.

This half, though, was all about Liverpool and Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan started a move in midfield in the 25th minute that he finished with a stunning volley. Cardiff's defensive luck had run out and the blocks and tackles that City won early on deserted them; Liverpool were able to slice through the Cardiff back line and create chance after chance.

The post saved Cardiff twice; Hawkeye correctly ruled out a claim for a goal when only part of the ball crossed the line before goalkeeper David Marshall kicked it out. But the pressure was building, and a second goal came with Suarez breaking on the counterattack and setting up Raheem Sterling for a tap-in.

If Suarez's first was stunning, his second, and Liverpool's third, was superb. He struck a curling effort from the edge of the box that beat a diving Marshall.

The half-time score of Liverpool 3-0 Cardiff City was a fair reflection on the attacking dominance from Liverpool in the final 20 minutes of the half.

Mackay, backed nonstop by the Cardiff fans, sent his players out for the second half three minutes ahead of the Liverpool players and within 10 minutes of the restart had made two substitutions. Fraizer Campbell replaced Peter Odemwingie and Kim Bo-Kyung came on for Gary Medel and immediately Cardiff pulled one back.

Campbell won a free kick wide right and when the cross came in Mutch was unmarked to head Cardiff's goal. For the next 10 minutes Cardiff were in control and could have won a penalty as Skrtel wrestled Caulker. It wasn't the first time. Cardiff had at least three decent shouts for shirt-pulling during the game.

Mutch headed over for another chance, while at the other end Suarez was searching for his hat trick. He went close twice with one effort coming off the post and one saved well by Marshall.

Liverpool saw the game out to win 3-1 and go top of the Premier League. Cardiff stay in 15th place. Four points above the relegation places. The second half was more like the battling Cardiff sides we've seen in previous games this season.

Mackay praised the supporters who were still in Anfield singing his name 30 minutes after the final whistle. He was asked again about the ultimatum to resign or be sacked and said, "I won't be walking away. I'm proud to be the manager of Cardiff City."

Mackay left the pitch to an ovation from his own supporters and the Liverpool crowd. A very clear message was sent to Tan that all the support was for the manager.

Losing at Liverpool on Saturday was not a major disappointment. It's the next two matches that are important for Cardiff. Southampton visit Cardiff City Stadium on Boxing Day and bottom club Sunderland travel to South Wales next Saturday. Victory in one of those games is essential and would represent a very good first half of the season, despite what Vincent Tan might think.


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