Mackay keeps hero status after spoiling the party

There aren't many managers who will come to Carrow Road, receive a hero's welcome and, 90 minutes later when his team have cuffed City, be afforded a second ovation.

There aren't many managers who will come to Carrow Road, receive a hero's welcome and, 90 minutes later when his team have cuffed City, be afforded a second ovation.

It's as much a mark of the City fans as Friday's recipient of such gratitude, Malky Mackay, that it happened.

Mackay served City well for six years, that tough Scottish forehead helping City to the play-off final in 2002 and then, two years later, to the top of the Championship.

Many City fans believe Mackay was relieved of his duties rather too abruptly, that he was just the type of player Nigel Worthington needed for the challenge of Premier League football. Ditto Iwan Roberts - who sat in the press box on Friday watching his old pal pull a Grade A flanker on his former employers.

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What Mackay had and still has is an unswerving devotion: he doesn't take his eye off the ball. He is Mr Concentration. Nigel Miller, the match referee now knows what journalists and a long list of centre-forwards went through when faced with the Mackay stare. Ask him a question and his eyes look down on you from just a few inches away: he's football in genuine close-up. When Mr Miller was summoned by his fourth official to have words with Mackay during the second half of the game, the big man didn't flinch. The lecture was given at such close quarters you wondered if there wasn't something they weren't telling us.

“The fourth official felt I was an inch out of my technical area when I was wanting to talk to my defence about 'please try to keep the ball out of the net' at one point,” he said. “Instead of telling me to come back he felt he had to tell the referee.”

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Mackay and Paul Lambert like each other - they were together at Celtic for a year. That doesn't mean they have the same views: Lambert isn't a fan of the loan system; Mackay reaped the rewards last season when Arsene Wenger allowed Henri Lansbury to move to Vicarage Road for a year and Sir Alex Ferguson lent him the highly-rated Tom Cleverley for the duration.

His squad is small and young with skipper John Eustace and centre-half Martin Taylor providing the only real experience. He needs to add a few more years - and reckons the Carrow Road win will help his cause.

“Last year we were tipped for relegation and through some strange times ended up finishing 16th,” he said. “We have a small, young squad which I am trying to improve by bringing in some loan players. Hopefully Premiership clubs will have seen that performance, seen the way we play and feel that they can trust us with the players as certain clubs did last year. In the Championship you need experience and if you can't get it you need numbers and quality numbers.

“The fact that we have got a way of playing and we actually want to make sure the loan players that come here go back to their clubs better individuals and better footballers. I think the two for example that came and became under-21 footballers last year should inspire others to do that as well.”

If they don't, you feel Mackay will.

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