Vincent Tan, Cardiff City’s maverick owner, has been threatened with a revolt from disgruntled fans of the Welsh club over the way the manager Malky Mackay – whose tenure hangs by a thread – has been treated.
The billionaire tycoon was due in London last night from his native Malaysia for talks with the club’s chairman, Mehmet Dalman, over Mackay’s future ahead of today’s Premier League match at Liverpool. Last week, Tan issued the Scotsman with the ultimatum of “resign or face the sack” in a confrontational email. Tan claims to be unhappy with Mackay’s transfer activity and the club’s form, despite Cardiff sitting 15th in the Premier League having won promotion last term.
Mackay, who has a contract until June 2016, insists he will not walk away from his post following two and a half years in charge. The manager did not attend his pre-match press conference yesterday, presumably as a result of the email from Tan coming out into the public domain. “Presumably” because Cardiff assistant manager David Kerslake, who gave the press conference, refused to answer questions on the subject.
Mackay, 41, yesterday flew from Cardiff to Liverpool at 3pm with his squad, with the expectation that he will lead the side at Anfield today.
In farcical circumstances, Kerslake was forced to conduct the club’s media commitments but was unable to give any answers to journalists on the subject of Mackay or Tan during a painful five-minute briefing.
Responses from Mackay’s right-hand man included: “As far as we are concerned, it’s just another game. We are going to a wonderfully talented team.” And: “We have prepared this week as professionally as we can. Without being boring, it has been a normal week.”
It didn’t wash.
With the uncertainty over Mackay’s future filtering through to the club’s fans, around 100 supporters arrived at the Cardiff City Stadium to voice their fury at the prospect of Tan following through with their worst fears by sacking the manager, who secured promotion to the top flight last season as Championship winners.
They chanted: “Don’t sack Mackay, Malky Mackay, I just don’t think you understand. If you sack Mackay, Malky Mackay, You’re going to have a riot on your hands,” while also displaying banners reading “Tan out” and “Hate the Red, Love the Blue” in protest to Tan’s controversial decision to change the club’s kit colour.
Sian Branson, a spokesperson for Cardiff supporters’ group Bluebirds Unite, said: “We set up the group [Bluebirds Unite] 10 months ago because we couldn’t sit back and watch the desecration of our club. We want to enjoy being in the Premier League, but we can’t because the club is being run like a megalomaniac’s toy.
“It wouldn’t be so bad if there was some economic sense behind it all but there’s not even that. There will be banners at Anfield and a lot of fans wearing blue, as there are for most away games.
“But who knows what will happen at the next home game? The fans have had a gut full. As a group we are trying to calm the fans, but there is only so long you can keep a lid on a bubbling pot.
“The club doesn’t seem to care what the fans think and we’ve felt for a long time the fans at home don’t matter. We were told our colours, identity and badge were being stripped to sell to Asian fans, but there’s nothing to back that up.
“It’s wrong because without the fans here, there wouldn’t be a club. How can a man who, by his own admission, knows nothing about football talk about the style of play or send notes to Malky about which players should be playing?
“We feel sorry for Malky, who is the best manager we’ve had. He’s done a great job and we don’t want him to go.
“Tan came in with the money, which was great, and he could have been a hero. Instead he has taken everything we are and now he’s taking away our manager.”
Since arriving from Watford in the summer of 2011, Mackay guided the club to the League Cup final in his first season in charge before promotion last term. Cardiff have been extremely competitive in the top division, beating Manchester City and drawing with champions Manchester United.
That does not seem to have been good enough for Tan’s lofty ambitions. The pair’s working relationship has been strained since Tan sacked Mackay’s head of recruitment, Iain Moody, now at Crystal Palace, in October for an apparent £15m overspend as the club brought in new signings worth £35m in total.
According to some sources the club are considering the 60-year-old Yilmaz Vural, who has managed at 20 clubs in his native Turkey, to replace Mackay. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has also been mentioned.