The Boss Files: Malky Mackay

By: Watford FC Staff

To help celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Watford’s move to Vicarage Road, Daily Mirror sports writer Mike Walters recalls his encounters with those who have occupied the Hornets’ hotseat.

As a player, Malky Mackay won promotion to the Premier League in three consecutive seasons with different clubs - Norwich, West Ham and Watford.

As a manager, he held the fort at Vicarage Road in difficult times from 2009-11, and history will smile benevolently on his two seasons in charge.

When the club was dicing with administration under a previous regime, Mackay maintained a late-night vigil with office staff who feared for their jobs until the Grim Reaper had been thwarted.

And on the pitch, his team played enviable football - especially in the first half of both seasons, before groundsharing with Saracens’ hefty prop forwards took its toll on the playing surface and pragmatism held sway over artistic merit.

Were you there when Lloyd Doyley scored against QPR? Mackay later admitted he had no idea what the great man was doing in the inside left channel when Don Cowie’s volleyed cross arrived at the far post.

That night, back in December 2009, victory was secured by on-loan teenager Tom Cleverley’s late solo breakaway after Mackay had struck a deal with Sir Alex Ferguson - who had played with his father at Queen’s Park in the 1960s - over the financial terms.

Manchester United wanted a £300,000 loan fee, and when Mackay admitted to Ferguson the Hornets couldn’t afford it, Fergie replied: “Give us what you can now, and we’ll worry about the rest later.” Cleverley’s 11 goals and five assists that season kept Watford safe from the relegation trapdoor.

As a return favour, when Ferguson asked if United could ‘borrow’ the Hornets’ training ground on their way to an assignment in London, Mackay made sure there was a slice of his favourite Genoa cake waiting for him.

He said: “The United players’ professionalism was incredible. When they got off the bus, not a single one of them was plugged into headphones and they were all immaculate in blazer and tie. None of them looked as if he had just rolled out of bed.

“And when they left, the dressing room was spotless. You could have eaten your dinner off the floor. It all stemmed from the manager - respect comes from the top.”

Briefly threatening the play-offs with a seven-match winning streak either side of Christmas in 2010, Mackay’s team was also a mirror image of their manager: Sweat on the jersey, as he called it, was the mandatory dress code. Maximum effort was the minimum requirement.

If you were there, or you can remember, Watford dismantling unbeaten leaders QPR at Loftus Road, Danny Graham’s 27 goals in a season, the opening-night win at Norwich or the 4-1 demolition of Cardiff in the fog, you were entertained by Mackay’s Watford.

If you were there, over the border in Bedfordshire, when Mackay scored against the noisy neighbours - it definitely crossed the line, by at least two inches - you rang in the New Year in high spirits 17 years ago.

And if you were there in the Welsh capital in May 2006, when Jay DeMerit’s flying header, James Chambers’ beautifully-crafted finish (sic) and Darius Henderson’s penalty sent the Hornets into the Premier League in the Championship play-off final, you will also remember Mackay’s value as a rock in the back four.

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