Cardiff manager hopes derby win distracts from off-field problems
Controversial Malaysian owner Vincent Tan watches his team beat Swansea 1-0
Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay hopes his side’s 1-0 victory over Swansea City in the Premier League’s first ever Welsh derby will distract attention from the club’s off-field problems.
Two non-English teams met for the first time in the 125-year history of the English top tier on Sunday and Cardiff prevailed thanks to a 62nd-minute header from one-time Swansea defender Steven Caulker.
Victory lifted Cardiff above their south Wales rivals to 12th place in the table, after a testing series of events that had called into question Mackay’s authority at the club.
His trusted head of recruitment Iain Moody was sacked by owner Vincent Tan and replaced by Alisher Apsalyamov, a 23-year-old friend of Tan’s son with no prior experience in elite-level football.
However, Apsalyamov, who is from Kazakhstan, has reportedly been asked to step down from his position by the British government while it investigates his eligibility to remain in the country.
Tan, meanwhile, is said to have issued tactical instructions to Mackay during games from his seat in the stands, while there were also reports that he authorised the signing of a player without Mackay’s consent.
The Malaysian businessman had caused huge controversy last year when he insisted that Cardiff change their colours from blue to red and altered the club’s emblem.
However, Tan’s backing also helped Cardiff secure promotion to the Premier League and after seeing off their fierce rivals, Mackay hopes they can continue to make progress.
“Obviously, a hugely important day locally, to south Wales, but also as far as we’re concerned, in terms of the background noise of the last three or four weeks, I think that certainly helps,” he said.
“It’s put a lot of smiles on people’s faces. And the atmosphere – I’ve never known anything like it.”
Asked if the victory had eased some of the pressure on him, he replied: ”There’s pressure on me every week, every Saturday. It’s a tough uncompromising league, but it’s the only place to be.”
Caulker spent the 2011-12 season on loan at Swansea from Tottenham Hotspur and did not celebrate his goal, but team-mate Craig Bellamy said that he had been unable to contain himself.
The Cardiff-born forward, who teed up Caulker’s goal, also challenged his team-mates to harness their momentum for a testing run of fixtures that includes back-to-back home games against Manchester United and Arsenal.
“I’m 34 now so I will celebrate any goal,” he said.
“It was a derby win, but a big three points for us. Next month we have some really tough fixtures.”
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said Cardiff’s goal had come at a time when his side were beginning to redouble their attacking efforts.
“I think we dominated well in the first half in midfield. We only had a couple of chances, but we kept them away from any chances,” he said.
“My thought was during the second half to bring in one or two more offensive players, and then they scored.”
He also said he had no complaints about the dismissal of goalkeeper Michel Vorm, who was shown a straight red card in injury time after charging from his area and upending Cardiff substitute Fraizer Campbell.
“He’s last man, so it’s what can happen,” said the Dane.