The absurdity of Vincent Tan at Cardiff City
The sacking of Malky Mackay by Cardiff City must have gone down as the least surprising event in football since Martin Jol got sacked from Fulham. It comes as the latest in a long line of increasingly odd and self-destructive moves by the Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan.
Cardiff City has a history of ludicrous owners and Chairmen, and long standing Cardiff supporters will be able to tell you all about the likes of Tony Clemo, Samesh Kumar, Sam Hammam and Peter Ridsdale. However Vincent Tan truly takes the biscuit in the terrible owner stakes.
Starting with the ludicrous kit and badge change, the last 18 months have brought a series of increasingly ill-thought out and bizarre actions and statements from the club that have pushed more and more fans away. The kit change itself was handled in a shambolic way, with denials of a change and assertions that the club was listening to the fans followed by a rapid change with no consultation with fans. The kit looked cheap and nasty and the badge was spruced up with what looked like a clip-art dragon. Meanwhile all the seats at the Cardiff City stadium remain blue and the whole change comes across as being completely half-arsed.
In the autumn there was the sacking of head of recruitment Ian Moody, replaced by an unknown 23 year old who has subsequently had to step down due to visa problems. The roots of this seem to be Tan’s complaints about an overspend on transfers over the summer. However the overspend reflects more poorly on Tan than it does on Mackay or Moody. The transfer deals would still need to be signed off by the club hierarchy, all appointed by Tan, so presumably somebody knew that the money was being spent and sanctioned it. The overspend also points to a potential lack of football knowledge, as the budget was exceeded through the addition of signing on and agents fees, rather than the payments made to clubs for players. Either way, for someone who is supposedly a great businessman he displayed a startling lack of financial control.
Following this things have become increasingly odd at Cardiff. Tan’s lack of football knowledge is astounding, with criticisms of goalkeeper David Marshall for not scoring and the suggestion that players should shoot more from distance as that will increase their chances of scoring. There have been reports of players asking that Tan not be allowed into the changing room at half time as his team talks have been disruptive and entirely unhelpful. Then there was the video of Tan booing either his own team or fans of the club (depending on your interpretation) after Sunderland’s late equaliser and his suggestion that the club should only sign players with an 8 in their birthday as that will bring good luck. Add in his ludicrous appearance and the entire package is completed.
The result is that Cardiff is now an even bigger laughing stock in football than it was before. Tan may well have thought he could get away from media glare and attention previously, but Cardiff’s rise to the Premier League means that criticism that was largely confined to pissed off fans on blogs and Twitter is now splashed all across the back pages of national daily papers and reaching back to his native Malaysia.
The absurdity of Tan’s actions and pronouncements as well as his monumental arrogance and ego are remarkable. Either he is an idiot or he is the greatest troll in football.
Given the unstable situation it seems unlikely that a serious manager will come forward for the job at Cardiff. Any manager worth his salt would want clear assurances about his exact role and a guarantee that Tan will keep his nose out of team affairs, however the ego of Tan likely means that bringing this up at the interview would result in not getting the job. The favourite seems to be Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a manager who would, in different circumstances, be a fantastic appointment for Cardiff. However it seems unlikely he would want to take on such an unstable situation as his first job in British football and you can almost see Sir Alex Ferguson whispering in his ear to give this one a wide berth. Other names linked are journeyman Turkish manager Yilmaz Mural or Sven Goran Erikson, an appointment that would fit the gaudy, style over substance, profile above achievement approach that Tan seems to favour.
In all this, Malky Mackay has been seen by the fans as the heart of the club, someone who has been committed to the cause and put up with difficult circumstances for the greater good. However even he doesn’t come out of this affair smelling entirely of roses. The way that a ranting email to Malky from Vincent Tan was leaked and backfired points to someone who is naïve and unable to deal with the complexities and pressures that might arise should he ever go to a big club and be thrust into the harsh spotlight that comes with it. Or it points to someone who engineered his sacking to get a hefty pay out and jump ship before it all went bad, leaving his players and the club in the lurch.
Despite the difficult conditions he had to work under, and the fantastic job he did with Cardiff, it’s difficult to feel terribly sorry for Malky. He leaves with a payout rumoured to be around £2 million and his reputation largely intact. There are a number of jobs he could easily get and it would no surprise to see him take the West Brom job in early January, barring any contractual restrictions placed on him by Cardiff. It wouldn’t be surprising if fans held more affection for the sour-faced Dave Jones and the sterling effort he put in during a long spell with Cardiff than they did for Malky Mackay.
The team itself has shown it is capable of mixing it in the Premier League, with fantastic results at home such as the 3-2 victory over Manchester City, the 2-2 draw with Manchester United and the win against Swansea City. Given different circumstances they would be capable of staying up without too much difficulty.
However once again Cardiff are likely to shoot themselves in the foot and unless some stability and consistency is quickly brought in the club looks likely to be relegated.
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