All business in Mackay’s Norwich City homecoming

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Jamie McDonald/Getty ImagesCurrent Cardiff boss Malky Mackay made over 200 apearances as a player for Norwich City.

Sentiment will be in short supply when Norwich City stalwart Malky Mackay brings Cardiff City to Carrow Road this weekend.

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Mackay is a legendary figure in the modern timeline of a club he will aim to push deeper into the Premier League mire. The 41-year-old made more than 200 league appearances for Norwich in a six-year stint that reached its zenith with promotion to the big time in 2004. Few would have forecast within two months of the Canaries' return to the land of milk and honey that Mackay would have departed for pastures new. That pivotal central defensive partnership alongside Craig Fleming which underpinned the ascent was ruthlessly dismantled. Mackay never played a single minute in the Premier League after doing more than most to get Norwich there. Little wonder it will be all business for the Bluebirds' boss once the inevitably warm reception recedes prior to kick-off.

Men like Mackay and Chris Hughton live in the present with the pressing reality of securing league points to re-energise campaigns that already exhibit some distress signals. Cardiff's impressive transition following promotion has faltered in recent weeks amid a backdrop of a rather messy arbitration process played out in public after Mackay was separated from his head of recruitment by the club's Malayasian owner.

The Scot remains at the helm in south Wales, but such fractures rarely heal. A victory over the Canaries would be the perfect riposte. To do so requires inflicting fresh misery on Hughton -- the man who inadvertently played a pivotal role in the Bluebirds' surge to the Championship title. Mackay readily acknowledged the debt he owed after Hughton acceded to his request for an extended loan spell for Norwich central defender Leon Barnett to help ease Cardiff through those fraught final few furlongs.

Barnett has since departed for Wigan in the summer but the ties that bind remain strong. Mackay was on the short list of potential successors to Paul Lambert before Hughton emerged as the board's preferred candidate. Craig Bellamy's precocious talent blossomed in Norfolk after progressing through Norwich's youth ranks. Cardiff keeper David Marshall is another former Canary with a far less illustrious history than his manager. The Scottish international's two-year stint in Norfolk ended on a sour note when he departed within days of their relegation to League One in 2009 -- a bitter period that still casts a deep scar on the club despite the epic revival.

Cardiff may be striving to emulate Norwich's initial success in bridging the chasm from the Football League, but the Canaries go into this weekend's reunion a point adrift of the visitors. Norwich have endured difficult days against Chelsea and Arsenal either side of the international break, but a newly-promoted side visiting Carrow Road is an obstacle they must overcome to continue their evolution towards Premier League consolidation.

Norwich have emerged with plaudits but precious little tangible reward over recent weeks. Hughton's side have been applauded from the field in losing efforts to title contenders but those on the terraces will demand nothing short of victory against their former idol.

Norwich's support will forever be indebted to Mackay for his distinguished service, but each will be acutely aware why that deep bond must be suspended for one afternoon.


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