Can Tan work it out?

Posted by Michael Morris

Cardiff manager Malky Mackay's future at the club remains in limbo.AssociatedMalky Mackay must re-focus after the events of the past two weeks.

Malky Mackay stays as Cardiff City manager while Vincent Tan sweetens the bitter atmosphere hanging over the club by writing off millions of pounds due in interest payments.

The first suggestion that something was wrong at Cardiff City came ahead of the club's last Premier League fixture against Newcastle United. The week leading up to the match was all positive after Cardiff had beaten Fulham at Craven Cottage the previous Saturday. On the weekend of the Newcastle game it was revealed that there had been an issue over player bonuses and the atmosphere changed.

Chief executive Simon Lim was quoted as saying: "Our 2013-14 bonus discussions were concluded in September ahead of the Hull City game and, as a club, we are all focused on the Premier League season ahead. Our collective aim is to bring success to Cardiff City supporters."

The first-half display against Alan Pardew's side gave the impression the issues were far from resolved. Cardiff were dreadful and went in at halftime 2-0 down. The team rallied in the second half but still lost 2-1. The speculation that Tan was unwelcome in the dressing room and that Mackay had to calm the situation contradicted the comments of the CEO.

The players refused to speak to the media after the defeat and Mackay just referred back to the comments from the CEO. No one was convinced the matter had been resolved. The start of the international break saw the announcement that Craig Bellamy would retire after Wales' past two World Cup qualifiers and, as Cardiff City was preparing to settle down for the two-week gap before facing Chelsea on Saturday, another bombshell exploded across South Wales.

Mackay's right-hand man, Iain Moody, was suspended. Moody has been Mackay’s close friend and head of recruitment for several years through his time at Watford and Cardiff. There was no explanation as to why he was suspended. To make it even more bizarre, it was announced that Moody was being replaced by a 23-year-old Kazakhstani named Alisher Apsalyamov. This young man had previously been at Cardiff City doing tasks such as painting the stadium and then, seemingly, to be shadowing Moody as he did his job.

Revelations that Apsalyamov's football experience was gained by watching games on his laptop took the situation from bizarre to ridiculous. The news that he is a close friend of Tan's son from a Swiss "finishing school" may help explain the connection a little better.

Moody's suspension was changed to "Gardening Leave" and by the weekend his contract had been terminated and he was out of the club. Odds on Mackay to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job tumbled from 20-to-1 favourite to even money.

No reason was given as to why Moody lost his job. And a week later there still has been no explanation. Of course there has been speculation. Had Moody failed at his job? Had he misinformed the CEO? Was he seen as an influence over the bonus row? Was he a scapegoat for the failings of other board members who really just don't understand the football business?

The appointment of the "Kazak Kid" raised attention in the national media. The tabloids and the broadsheets all had an opinion and they were not favourable to Tan. The major shareholder was ridiculed for the appointment and his fashion sense. Last year, with the offer of lots of money, he managed to get the awful rebrand accepted, and because Cardiff were a Championship team that did not court the attention that a Premier League club attracts, he got away with it.

The dismissal of Moody left the Mackay's position in doubt. Mackay has the backing of the overwhelming majority of the Cardiff City fans. The initial reaction that Malky was vulnerable went beyond the reaction when the rebrand was announced. Last year "Keep Cardiff Blue" and the returning of several hundred season tickets meant Tan suffered a minor irritation as he forced the Bluebirds to become a team that played in the red. The suggestion that Malky might go saw a reaction from fans that could have made Tan's attendance at Cardiff games much more uncomfortable.

The media reaction must also have hit home that Tan cannot just hire and fire at Premier League level like his Kenny Rogers Roasters staff or the kids at McDonald's Malaysia who sing songs showing their gratification for being employed by him.

A statement on the official website confirmed Moody's departure, Apsalyamov's appointment and included a line from Tan.

"I have every faith in Malky and his team to lead us through the challenges of the Premier League. I have supported him in the past and will do so in the future for many years to come," Tan said.

"I would say to all Cardiff City fans and everyone connected to the club, let us look forward to the future and remain united in our support of the team."

Mackay's future seemed far from certain and the next salvo was fired by his agent.

Ahead of a board meeting, Raymond Sparkes said: "Malky understands there has been a lack of clarity and will insist at the end of the board meeting that the chairman or other senior directors provide supporters with a clear explanation of what has been going on.

"If that cannot be done he will take it upon himself to do it. He does not want the club's fans left in the dark for too much longer."

The board meeting took place this week and the outcome was that Mackay was the man to lead Cardiff City. He would have the final say on transfers and owner Tan is going to wipe millions of pounds of interest off the monies owed to him for loans provided to the club.

So there were no revelations by the club or by Mackay about what was really going on. No explanation as to why Iain Moody lost his job and, tellingly, no mention of the current CEO in the news release. The chairman and other directors have all been given roles to fulfil but the CEO is conspicuous by his absence.

I don't know if we will ever know exactly why Moody was dismissed. But Mackay is not going to walk, his contract will prevent that from happening and I think Mr. Tan, while being aware of where his money is being spent, should leave the football side to professionals like Mackay, who have been superbly efficient and exemplary in their dealings for the club.

The manager and the players must now put any off-field issues behind them and prepare to face Jose Mourinho's Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.


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