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Home / Latest News / Malky Mackay came to Cardiff City to get them promoted

Malky Mackay came to Cardiff City to get them promoted

Let me begin by admitting that I’m not a football fan.

The last time I played football I nearly broke my nose.

It was an inconsequential schoolboy match and I had elected to be goalkeeper for my team so that I could avoid all that running about after the ball.

In an heroic bid to prevent my team going 3-0 down inside 15 minutes, I dived at the legs of the oncoming striker whose knee caught me full in the face.

Blood gushed for my nose as I was unceremoniously carted off the field for rudimentary medical treatment in the changing rooms.

A burly PE teacher prodded my proboscis and pronounced: “It’s not broken. You’ll live.”

However, my battered face was such a frightful sight that the compassionate English mistress in charge of that afternoon’s lesson on Shakespeare’s Othello instructed that I should have the rest of the day off and be escorted home to my bed of pain.

This boyhood trauma is perhaps one reason why I have been unable to share in the euphoria that has gripped Cardiff and the surrounding area ever since the city’s football team gained promotion to the Premier League.

The unbounded joy that has resulted from this success has left me cold and wondering why a mere game for which grown men are often paid obscene amounts of money should have such a hold on people’s hearts and minds.

It is, I suspect, a quasi-religious fervour, a longing to be lifted out of the humdrum of everyday existence,  a deep-seated need to belong to a congregation of  fellow believers, and the adulation of a leader.

I’ve written once before in these pages about Cardiff City manager, Malky Mackay. Readers with good memories will recall that I had misheard his name and mistaken him for the Old Testament prophet, Malachi, or “God’s Messenger.”

That doesn’t sound quite so silly now. Malky arrived in Cardiff with the message that he would deliver the football team unto the Premier League and he has done just that.

Reading newspaper accounts of his managerial abilities, it appears that as a tactician and strategist he stands alongside Napoleon, Rommel and even Genghis Kahn.

That last comparison is deliberate because those same newspaper accounts have warned us to prepare for a ruthless and merciless Malky who will wield his sword against players he considers unworthy to take the next step up.

As a philosopher of  the cruelties of life, Malky merits a place in The School of Athens. Indeed, I fancy you can spot him in Raphael’s great painting of that name. He’s the young man to the right of the picture, cross-legged and taking notes. Malky is always taking notes.

One thing he will have certainly noted: Those who live by the sword will die by it.

Should Cardiff drop out of the Premier League next season, the knives, if not the swords,  will almost certainly be out for him. The adulation of adoring but fickle followers can quickly turn to opprobrium. That other great leader, Julius Caesar, discovered that the hard way.

The story of Cardiff’s rise to the top level after more than 50 years would make good material for a thriller writer.

Or, perhaps, a poet.

It was interesting to read that the 90 year-old Cardiff-born poet, Dannie Abse,  has been a lifelong Bluebirds fan, often travelling from his London home to watch his team play at Ninian Park.

Abse is a fine poet, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief who understands human frailty. If he was overjoyed with Cardiff’s success, there must be something poetic and significant to it.

Abse’s poem, The Game, goes some way towards an explanation, and hints at the religious fervour I mentioned earlier.

In the poem, Abse puts it like this:

“The coin is spun. Here all is simplified

and we are partisan who cheer the Good,

hiss at passing Evil. Was Lucifer offside?

A wing falls down when cherubs howl for blood.

Demons have agents: the Referee is bribed.

and

“God sign our souls! Because the obscure Staff of

Hell rule this world, jugular fans have guessed

the result half way through the second half

and those who know the score just seem depressed.”

This was written when Cardiff was at a low ebb. It would be fascinating to know if Abse feels inspired to write a poem about the team’s eventual triumph.

There is both poetry and banality in football. Is all of human life there? Perhaps.

But as fervent fans prepare to hail their heroes when they parade through the city,  we should also consider this: It’s just a game.

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