Cardiff City: 'Malky In The Middle'
Cardiff City have undergone perhaps the largest club overhaul in our history over the past few months with further boardroom movements to convert longstanding debts into shares adding to the massive changes to the playing and coaching staff.
Gone is long term manager Dave Jones, his faithful assistant Terry Burton and several other backroom staff. Jones had been the longest serving manager in the Championship but was removed from his post as the City owners sought a change following several end-of-season failures.
Jones build last season`s talented squad around a number of important loan signings. However, this was always a risky strategy. Immediately as the season ended, we lost Seyi Olofinjana, Craig Bellamy, Jason Koumas and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas as well as the less popular departures of Jlloyd Samuel, Stephen Bywater and Jason Brown. Other temporary signings like Danny Drinkwater and Andy Keogh had already departed midway through the season.
Even further squad turmoil was to come, with key players Jay Bothroyd and Chris Burke both out-of-contract and certain to leave. They both did, and were joined in the CCFC departure lounge by Adam Matthews (having already agreed to join Celtic) and striker Michael Chopra whose off-field struggles suggested a change of scene was needed.
The decimated squad was inherited by a new manager, who apparently beat off competition from Alan Shearer, Chris Hughton, Roberto Di Matteo, Derek McInnes and several other big names. Former Watford manager Malky Mackays was finally appointed to the role and given the difficult task of rebuilding an entire squad.
Of course the massive influx of players has had a huge effect on Cardiff City Football Club. Free transfers like Gunnarsson, Conway, Cowie, Taylor and fans favourite Robert Eanrshaw have come in and joined the likes of Kenny Miller and Joe Mason who cost a combined £1m. More upheaval was necessary to replace the backroom staff and Mackay acted quickly to bring the likes of David Kerslake in as assistant.
However, the biggest change at the club comes on the training field with Mackay employing a wholly different style of management to his predecessor. Dave Jones oversaw those operations, sometimes from afar while Terry Burton was 'hands-on` with the players. The training regimes were highly structured and rigid.
Mackay`s style is wholly different. In the relatively few training sessions he has shared with the players, he has been in and amongst them, constantly talking, encouraging and offering advice. It`s a completely different focus, with far more emphasis of team spirit, interaction and integration of all the squad members. Mackay likes to be involved with everything, and that has shown on the pitch with the 0-0 draw with Parma seeing the Scotsman prowling his touchline constantly, shouting orders, organising and encouraging his players. This is in stark contrast to the subdued Jones, who did his talking in private and spent much of the match watching from the dugout.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is in no way a dig at Dave Jones. He is an accomplished manager who achieved much for this football club and deserves credit. Jones is also firmly in the past, but the appointment of Mackay does speak volumes about the vision of the CCFC board going forward. They chose to get rid of Jones, and in Malky Mackay they opted for someone much younger, less experienced and with a completely different style to take the Bluebirds into the future. Many complained last season of a lack of team spirit and unity - this is an area where Mackay is clearly very strong. Always involved, always looking to improve and always pushing his players.
The season is nearly upon us. It will take time for any such hastily assembled squad to understand their roles, and hit form. However, in the short time under Malky Mackay, Cardiff City have made tremendous progress and we can look forward to the season beginning with renewed hope and optimism.