Watford: Happy with Malky
There were some Watford fans that felt worried before the start of this season. As we head into the last five games of the campaign, however, the Hornets sit snugly in the top half of the Championship table. Mike Parkin tells the tale of the man responsible for one of the division’s most exciting teams.
It is now almost 15 years since he etched his name into Celtic folklore by scoring against Rangers to prevent them going a record ten matches unbeaten against his beloved Bhoys. Now, having enjoyed successful stints at Norwich and West Ham, Malky Mackay is fast becoming a hero the other side of the white line, as he continues to impress in his role as manager at Championship side Watford.
Having been successful in his second application for the post (he was overlooked in favour of Brendan Rodgers following the departure of Aidy Boothroyd), Mackay has specialised in making football team-shaped silk purses out of what is a rather tired and broken sow’s ear. The well-documented lack of funds at Vicarage Road has forced the 38-year-old into fielding a mixture of youngsters and previously unknown signings. But against all odds and expectations, Mackay has developed a squad and style of play that has got Hornets fans smiling again.
With limited funds at his disposal, transfer acumen was always going to be important. In bringing in players such as Martin Taylor, Don Cowie, Stephen McGinn, Will Buckley and the free-scoring Danny Graham, Mackay has passed that particular test with flying colours. The majority of his signings have proved to be regular and important components of a Watford side that currently sits comfortably in mid table – a position for which Watford fans would have gladly traded family members before the season began.
Forays into the loan market have also proved fruitful. Players such as Tom Cleverley, Henri Lansbury, Jordon Mutch and Andrew Taylor have all flourished under Mackay’s stewardship at WD18. While loanees have certainly had an important part to play in Watford’s resurgence, Mackay clearly has a long-term vision for Watford and it has been the emergence of so many Academy graduates and youth team players that has delighted Watford fans. The likes of Matty Whichelow, Pierro Mingoia and Adam Thompson have all made an impact this year, the latter being rewarded with a full Northern Ireland cap and a place in their squad for the upcoming qualifiers.
On top of all this, Watford supporters have seen goals. Lots of them, and not all of them have been flying into Scott Loach’s net. Only one team (in-form promotion contenders Reading) have scored more goals away from home than Watford. With Danny Graham currently the league’s top scorer having netted 24 times, they’ve scored their fair share at home too. Not just that, and be sure to whisper it, but it’s all being done with some style.
His name means we are unlikely to ever forget his roots and, with a good relationship already formed with fellow Scot Alex Ferguson, has Mackay picked up any tips from that old charmer Fergie for when dealing with the media? Not a bit of it. Whenever he talks he is assured and firm, while remaining unfailingly articulate and amusing. His regular appearances at club events have endeared him to supporters – his willingness to respond openly to tough questions and criticism providing a welcome change from the media trained clichés football fans usually have to endure.
Malky is media savvy, approachable, tough and determined, excellent in the transfer market and an advocate of youth and attractive football. Watford are in safe hands.
Mike is co-presenter of Watford podcast ‘From the Rookery End‘.