Just three days after becoming the first manager to guide Cardiff City into the Premier League in over a half-century, Malky Mackay was as characteristically down-to-earth as he has been throughout the season as he sat down for his press conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Turf Moor to face Sean Dyche’s Burnley.
Of course, the first question posed to the Gaffer by the assembled press was regarding his week since the events of Tuesday, to which he replied: “There’s been a lot of people with smiles on their faces everywhere I’ve turned this week, and that’s great to see.
"The whole City’s got a big smile on its face and it’s just lovely. The last couple of days have been quite busy – we’re still preparing for a game just a couple of days later so I’ll probably catch my breath at some point next week. Media-wise it’s been a busy couple of days. Obviously we’ve got a training ground that is running and flowing at the moment as well ahead of the game tomorrow, so it’s been a bit hectic.
“Before the game on Tuesday I said to the players, 'Most people watch history happening, but tonight you have the chance to go out there and make history happen,' and they did. It felt like the Carling Cup semi-final. It felt like we had just got to Wembley. With ten minutes to go the crowd started going wild and obviously I was told that Millwall had scored. After two minutes of injury time, Kers came up to me and told me, 'It’s finished, we’re up,' so that was the realisation. Chris (Charlton manager Powell) came to congratulate me too.
“I’ve had some really nice messages from managers throughout the country. There’s only ninety-two in work in the top four divisions, but there’s an awful lot more who you meet along the way during your career. We all knew the league that we were in and how hard it can be, so it’s really pleasing.”
Having deservedly given his players a day off to take in the party atmosphere in the City, all minds are now firmly focused on the remaining three fixtures of the nPower Championship season.
“I gave the players Wednesday off,” Malky said. “They were all back in yesterday and now the focus is firmly on the last three games. It’s our job to do everything we can to win those three games for the good of the league and for the good of ourselves. The three teams we have to play have all got something to play for and that absolutely makes a difference. Sean (Dyche) will absolutely want the points this weekend, as do I. We’re both football managers and we’ll be professional as usual, trying to win the game. To go and win the title now that we’ve been promoted would be very special indeed. I’ve got a group of boys that are winners and all year they’ve put their heart into every game.
“Everybody is playing for something during these end-of-season games, whether or not you’re playing for a contract or just to impress. They know that they’ve got to keep playing well to be part of something here next season. I’ve had to be ruthless both with staff and players since I came here, and that won’t change this summer. What we are doing is for the good of this football club. Change happens, change is constant and if you don’t change then you will be left behind. That’s not just me, that’s football as a whole. I could have stayed at Norwich and I could have stayed at West Ham, but at the end of the day, players just want to play football, and more often than not players will go to find that. That’s what you do; it’s your job. Nobody wants to just sit and pick up a wage at the end of the week. I’ve got a great group of players who will be looking to challenge for jerseys next season.”
Club stalwart Kevin McNaughton’s ecstasy at realising his dream of promotion was the image numerous national media outlets used to summarise Tuesday’s success. Malky addressed his fellow Scot’s contract situation with the club, saying: “We’ll get these three games out of the way and then we’ll sit down with him and a group of other people about what’s going to happen next year. I’ll talk to every player a couple of days after the season finishes; I’ll have ten minutes with every player to talk about my expectations of them, where they’ve come to and where they’re going.
“I’ve got a good structure in place and we hope it’s going to get better. Since the January transfer window finished there’s been quiet work going on in terms of looking further afield. We’ve had a just-in-case list [of transfer targets] and that means that you’re not behind the curve, regardless of where we would have been next season. Tan Sri is a very intelligent businessman, who doesn’t throw good money off the bat. I’ve put a document together for him on why I spend. It’s not just about my and my staff’s judgement, a dossier must be produced with all other details whether they are financial or personal, and then it’s up to him to say yes or no.”
And with no new injury news ahead of the Burnley trip, Malky had further good news as numerous sidelined Bluebirds were revealed to be on the road to recovery.
“Fraizer (Campbell) and (Craig) Conway have started training, but tomorrow looks like being too early for them both,” he stated. "Heidar’s still got his knock and will be out. Nicky (Maynard) came through an in-house game against the youth team and scored a hat-trick, which is always a winner! He’s back in training and will hopefully be getting an extra bit of time with the Development squad next week. The light is there at the end of the tunnel and that’s great. We’ll assess whether he’s ready to come back before Hull, which is two weeks away. Richard Collinge and our physio department feel that he’s ticked every box and the fitness department think he’s ticked every box there. The last game is absolutely a possibility, you never know.
And lastly, Malky was asked if he had an additional target of amassing a club-record haul of points over a single league season: “It’s not something we’re thinking about – when the dust settles on the season and you look at stats then maybe, but at the moment we’re just focused on getting the points that will win us the title. Our aim was to be promoted so we are over the first hurdle, we’ve done that now. The next big target is to win the title, and we’re desperate to do that.”