Mr Cool’ will guide us through – Malky

Malky Mackay paid his own tribute to boss Adrian Boothroyd as the two former Norwich City men approach the final hurdle in Watford's remarkable bid for Premiership football.

Malky Mackay paid his own tribute to boss Adrian Boothroyd as the two former Norwich City men approach the final hurdle in Watford's remarkable bid for Premiership football.

The Hornets take on Leeds United in Sunday's Coca-Cola Championship play-off final at the Millennium Stadium with veteran defender Mackay bidding for a promotion hat-trick after helping the Canaries and West Ham into the top flight in the previous two seasons.

And 35-year-old Boothroyd, the man at the helm, is given the lion's share of the credit by the former Scotland international for taking Watford within one step of an amazing achievement in his first full season as a manager.

“The manager is as cool as a cucumber in all this,” said Mackay of City's former assistant academy director.

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“He's very, very professional, very thorough in everything he does in training, his planning is meticulous and so is the way he goes about running the club.”

Boothroyd, who says he learned much about preparing for the play-offs from Norwich's own experience four years ago, took his squad to Cardiff earlier this week to familiarise themselves with their surroundings ahead of a potentially momentous weekend.

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Said Mackay: “The playing staff have already been to Cardiff this week, we trained down there and went to see the stadium and the hotel. He wanted to let the players have a good look and get used to the place.”

Mackay, 34, was a towering figure in Watford's 3-0 aggregate semi-final victory over much-fancied Crystal Palace, all three goals coming in the first leg away from home.

It was in the goalless second leg that the ex-Canary collected the man of the match award.

He said: “Selhurst Park is never an easy place to go, so to bag three goals set us up perfectly for the second leg.

“It was a tough tie and to get the man of the match award was very pleasing.

“It took me back to the second leg with Norwich against Wolves at Molineux, when I also got man of the match and it capped off the night beautifully.

“I'm delighted to have another crack at the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium. It's very pleasing to be back there again, probably for the last time before the whole thing moves back to Wembley.

“To be involved with another team that's chasing promotion is wonderful, not facing a fight against relegation at the bottom of the league.”

The Hornets finished third in the Coca-Cola Championship, two places above Leeds, but picked up just one point from the two league meetings between the sides.

“We drew one and lost one against Leeds in the league. It was 0-0 at home and we were 1-0 up at Leeds, but lost 2-1 after having a couple of players sent off. But I don't think those results will have any bearing on the final. Crystal Palace beat us twice in the league but that didn't make any difference.”

Mackay captained Norwich in the 2002 final against Birmingham at Cardiff, which they lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw, before playing a key part in their 2004 Nationwide League title success, and there are inevitable echoes from the past as he prepares for another career highlight.

He said: “When I think back to my time at Norwich, there were a couple of nights before the Cardiff final when people were queueing for tickets three or four deep, wrapped round the stadium.

“It's been the same here. At Watford I think we had people who started queueing in the middle of the night for extra tickets at Vicarage Road and there must be more than 30,000 going to the final.”

His old colleagues at Carrow Road have also weighed in with their support.

“I've had texts from Flem, Adam Drury, Paul McVeigh, Robert Green and Hucks, wishing me all the best, so it's nice to know they're thinking about me.”

The winning team on Sunday is expected to pocket up to £30million.

Boothroyd said: “The 48 games we've already played this season have all led to this one. To be 90 minutes away from Premiership football means that we will continue to be as professional in our preparations as we have been all season.

“"Part of those plans has involved already taking a trip to Cardiff this week to check out our hotel and the Millennium Stadium.

“We're a young team and some of our lads will have not been there before so we thought it was a good idea to get used to the surroundings at the stadium.”

On Sunday, Boothroyd will come up against the club he left to take over as Watford manager in March 2005.

He was first-team coach to Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell before he accepted his first job in high-level football management at Vicarage Road.

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