Thursday 22 February 2018

Tan's theory of evolution calls for some Sven enlightenment

That was the Week

Never has the tired gag that all managers are caretaker managers been more apt than at Cardiff City
Never has the tired gag that all managers are caretaker managers been more apt than at Cardiff City

Dion Fanning

Never has the tired gag that all managers are caretaker managers been more apt than at Cardiff City. We know that the true spirit of Christmas is that wonderful sense of days losing their meaning, the fog that descends after another fruitful period spent watching the second half of The King and I again before wondering if there is anything more festive than Eddie Stobart's 12 Days of Christmas which is billed as a "collection of festive highlights [that] sees the truckers battle the elements . . . as they try to meet deadlines in the last-minute Christmas chaos".

There are other mysteries to Christmas too, such as why the darters at the Ally Pally rise for the Christmas recess on the 23rd and don't return until the 27th when they could be back on St Stephen's Day, providing a glimpse of how the other half live, even if in this case it is the other half among the crowd, drinking more than their seven pints per head average and feeling good about this and everything else too; why It's a Wonderful Life has been labelled a sentimental feel-good Christmas film when its real service is to tell a timeless truth about finance and speculators ("Potter isn't selling, Potter's buying") before providing an alternative vision at the end; why there is no festive version of the Betfair 'cash out' ad with the punter surrounded by his loving family as he decides with that throbbing music (maybe they could add some seasonal bells) if he should 'cash out' now as his loving children fade into the background while also providing a sense that Santa's visit might depend on daddy taking the profit.

No wonder we lose track of days when there is so much wonder, but is it only a week ago that Malky Mackay was waving farewell to the Cardiff City supporters at Anfield before his temporary reprieve? Last weekend, Mackay appeared beaten down by Vincent Tan, a man who again proves the folly in the statement, 'At least he has strong beliefs, you have to admire him for that'.

Sometime between Cardiff's game in Liverpool and Christmas, Mackay effectively became caretaker manager of Cardiff. "As things stand, Malky is in charge for the foreseeable future and will be until something else happens," Mehmet Dalman, the club's chairman, said, perhaps hoping that Cardiff had entered a sort of 'End of History' where nothing much would happen again ever and they could exist in that state of becalmed indifference which has traditionally been the preserve of, say, Fulham.

Dalman added that the "crisis for the time being was over", but it turned out that among the unforeseen events was a defeat to Southampton and that the crisis was over only for the time between one match and the next.

Last week, Mackay was working as a caretaker manager, having replaced himself and therefore standing in for himself until the club decided on Friday that a new man could come in. Like all caretakers, he was "a little in the dark" about matters going on above him but Malky gave the impression, like all good caretakers, that he was willing to give it all for the club he loves.

This was a stunning variation on football's conventional approach to these matters and again demonstrated that when it comes to innovation, Tan is a man who knows what he wants and you have to admire him for that.

It contrasted with Tottenham's approach where Tim Sherwood moved from caretaker to full-time head coach with unseemly haste and Spurs appeared to squander the feel-good effect that working for a caretaker usually brings while also foregoing the temporary boost that a big-name appointment usually brings.

Tan's adventures in Cardiff again raise the question about football in the modern era, who is it for and what can be done? Cardiff wouldn't be where they are without Tan's money, which is a problem for all those who feel speculators should be driven from their clubs.

His egregious decision to change the club's colours and not to rule out a change in name are offensive to the supporters of Cardiff.

These actions clearly struck at the identity of Cardiff but Tan is a man who doesn't believe in history, looking to the future at all times and imagining it with Cardiff wearing red and seen as fiery dragons.

After all, he might argue, wasn't a sort of doomed fatalism part of Manchester City's identity before Sheikh Mansour took over? No doubt there are Manchester City supporters who pine for those days, like we all have to resist nostalgia, when their lives were flecked with tragic-comedy.

"Running a business or an organisation is something that is evolving and alive, not dead," Tan said in August. "We don't do things that were the same 30 years ago, if that was the case there would be no internet today. If our forefathers did the same we would all be living in caves. We'll see, but we are definitely not doing anything now to upset people."

Since then, he has dismissed Iain Moody, the head of recruitment, and temporarily replaced him with Alisher Apsalyamov, a 23-year-old

from Kazakhstan who had been on work experience at the club and who had to step aside once he had visa problems. Now Mackay is also gone.

In those moments, it is easy to pine for the grand old types who ruled the English game. Tan is following in a fine tradition in disregarding the views of others, even as he does it on a grander scale.

It was no surprise to see Sven-Goran Eriksson linked with Cardiff before and after Mackay's dismissal. Sven is coaching in China right now but reports suggested he had already been approached as he looks for a return to English management. Sven should be able to work with Vincent Tan as he has always displayed a kind of genius for getting on with rich people even if he is now broke himself, which can only sharpen his desire.

We are all caretakers, you can hear Sven say, as he echoes Chauncey Gardiner once again. Nobody would be surprised if he returned during the Christmas season, sending us into another spiral of disorientation as we wonder not only what day is it, but what year.

Irish Independent

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