Malky Mackay and mixed messages

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Little sign of goodwill to all men this footballing Christmas, as the minor sideshow of the game on the pitch is relegated to the sidelines and attention focuses on whether Malky Mackay, heavy-set purveyor of sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and racism, is a suitable man to be appointed Scottish football’s Performance Director.

The battle lines have been drawn between those who feel Mackay was punished and re-educated and is now as valid a candidate as any other, and those who look on in disbelief as the football world jogs along to its own set of rules yet again.

It would be controversial enough were Mackay being considered for this SFA appointment in ordinary times, but with football across the UK convulsed by allegations of both abuse and its concealment over a period of decades, it seems hardly believable that the SFA feel now is the right time to tell Scotland that crossing not just one but four lines so red they would have Jeremy Corbyn watering at the mouth is no barrier to employment in the national association.

And we thought Donald Trump being elected President was weird.

Here’s the thing. Getting a career in football is like winning a Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka. It opens the doors to riches unimaginable to the ordinary working man or woman, offering massive reward for possession of an unusual skill, but not one which calls for that great an outlay of effort. It must be a fabulous life. But there’s no divine right to that career, and if you screw up on an industrial scale you may very well find yourself – gasp! – having to find work elsewhere.

Malky is man who made it well into his forties thinking these texts were fine. It doesn’t really matter, in the end, how many courses he’s been on; he effectively ruled himself out of any job above janitor (apologies to jannies everywhere) when he was busted for it and, initially, didn’t think it was that big a deal. He should, by rights, have forfeited his footballing career.

That’s where the argument put forward by Tom English, Barry Ferguson and Richard Wilson on Sportsound (14/12/16) falls down, that cold shouldering Mackay is effectively giving the man a life sentence for one (actually many) offence. Well, a life sentence from the gilded cage of football, yes. But not from life itself, and frankly the idea that anyone can only ever work in football is just ridiculous.

If poor old Malky has to find work somewhere else, it’s hardly the end of the world. He may find himself pushing trolleys round his local supermarket, who knows? This is not, contrary to what Messrs English, Ferguson and Wilson appear to think, a ‘life sentence’ but the actual working reality for people who never had the opportunities Mackay had and chose to throw away. My sympathy is extremely limited.

The glamour of supermarkets may be a world he’s unused to, although sadly he’ll find enough people on the shop floor who share his cretinous outlook on ‘chinkys’, ‘gay snakes’, women’s chests and black people to ensure he’ll be the works clown in no time. That, though, is better than turning what’s left of the national game into the circus. Appointing a man who gives Bernard Manning a run for his money in the offensiveness stakes is not just an error of judgement, it’s a de facto attack on all the work which has been done over the years to tackle discrimination of any sort.

As football grapples with abuse on a scale few could have believed, Mackay’s job or no job saga seems like, and relatively speaking is, small beer. But as a signpost telling us where we are as a footballing country, it points us away from getting boys and girls from all backgrounds involved in football (already a huge issue) and points to the world where Trump grabs pussy, brands Mexicans rapists and is rewarded for it. Actions used to have consequences. Now, I’m not so sure, and the SFA aren’t making me any more confident.

The SFA are supposed to be custodians of the game in Scotland. But if you are Jewish, and this appointment goes ahead, you will be less likely to get into football. If you are female, the same applies. If you have Chinese heritage, or any south Asian heritage since one area Mackay apparently doesn’t discriminate in is between Malaysians and Chinese, the same applies. If you have African heritage, the same applies. It won’t apply to everyone from those backgrounds but it will apply to some and that alone should, be reason enough to kibosh any thought of this appointment.

While America, Russia and other countries are turning to the strongman political leader from the 1930’s, Scottish football is turning toward the sweaty comedy figure from the 1970’s. It’s not a good look. In a bizarre year full of previously unimaginable events, maybe it was inevitable that the SFA would get in on the act with some act of crass lunacy - perhaps this hideously ill judged misadventure is merely Stewart Regan’s Christmas gift to Scottish football. If it is, I hope he has kept the receipt, because this one outranks even the ugliest jumper.

Think again, Stewart.

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