Malky Mackay, the Cardiff manager, pointedly avoided reference to Vincent Tan, the club’s controversial owner, after his team had defeated Swansea 1-0 in the first all-Welsh Premier League game on Sunday.
Mackay and Tan have been at odds since the Malaysian money man’s dismissal of the manager’s friend, Iain Moody, as the club’s head of recruitment three weeks ago, fuelling speculation linking Mackay with a return to Norwich, the club with whom he made his name as a player in England.
Significantly, Mackay lavished praise last night on Gary Medel and Steven Caulker, two of the players recruited by Moody during the summer. Of Caulker, who scored the winner, he said: “I couldn’t believe we actually got him, certainly not for the price we ended up paying Spurs [£8m]. We [Mackay and Moody] did our homework on him.
“He’s our captain and I think he’s going to have a long international career with England.”
Chilean midfielder Medel, bought from Seville for a club record £11m, was Mackay’s man of the match. He said. “In the second half we knew if we could get him on the ball he could orchestrate the whole game and for about half an hour he was able to do that. I thought he was immense from the first to the last minute.
“I was really pleased with all the players we got in the summer. We’ve signed over 30 players in the last two- and-a-half years, there was a system attached to that and it’s why we’re where we are now.”
Had Tan congratulated him? “I’ve not spoken to the owner,” Mackay said. “What I’m delighted about is that performance and the three points for our fans, our staff and our players. They’ve all had a tough three to four weeks to endure.”
Meanwhile, the Swansea manager, Michael Laudrup, was understandably downbeat after the match. He said: “We had four chances in the game, they only had one, so disappointment is the best word to describe how we all feel right now. We all know how important this one was. Looking back at it, the game was more or less as we expected.
“It was very tight with very few chances. We controlled the first half, preventing Cardiff from creating any chances and in the second half we expected a reaction from them. They put us under a bit more pressure, but without creating much.
“My plan for the second half was to put on a couple more offensive players and go for the win, but then they scored from a set piece. One mistake and that can happen.”
The mistake in question was made by Jonjo Shelvey, who went Awol from his appointed position on the line at the near post, where Caulker’s goal went in.
But Laudrup excused his midfield signing from Liverpool, saying: “Let’s just give credit to Caulker, it was a good header.”
The Swans manager also had no complaints with goalkeeper Michel Vorm’s red card for bringing down Fraizer Campbell. He said: “When the attacker has a lot of pace and is facing the last man, that can happen.”
Laudrup accepted his team had fallen below the high standards they have set themselves. “You can never ask a player to play well,” he said. “You can only ask them to try to do their best and today you can argue that some weren’t at their best.
“It’s always easy to brag if you win, but when you lose you have to accept it. OK we lost – but there’s always the next time.”