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Malky Mackay reflects on first year as Watford manager
If you reflect on what has happened at Vicarage Road in the past 12 months it is not difficult to understand why Malky Mackay feels he has experienced more in his first year at the Hornets helm than some of his counterparts will go through in five times as long.
When the Scot was unveiled as Brendan Rodgers' successor a year ago this week he remarked that it would be an "interesting season". With the benefit of hindsight, the manager would probably regard that as something of an understatement now.
From dealing with bids for talismanic striker Tommy Smith within days of taking charge, to the sale of four key players, including the Player of the Season, at the end of August, to the dark days of the club being on the brink of administration at the end of the year, the former central defender had all this – and more – thrown at him, while trying to ensure his team remained as competitive as possible in the dog-eat-dog Championship.
"I think there are things that have happened in my first year that you wouldn't expect in five years of management which I suppose in the long run will be good for me," Mackay reflected prior to this week's anniversary.
"From going into the job and a month in, four of the starting XI had to leave which was a challlenge in itself as you then need to try and find players who can play in the Championship in the loan market, which isn't always easy, and I had to try and keep a level of experience in the team, which I knew we couldn't do.
"There was the ongoing financial difficulties which were well-documented and going on in the background all the time from my first meeting until the AGM in December. Up until then .....there was this on-going problem in the background to the point in December."
Looking back on one of the most traumatic periods in the club's history, Mackay continued: "I remember being down at the offices most nights and it is a case of where we were three or four hours from administration, so that was certainly something that was very testing for the senior management at the football club, as they tried to broker a deal to survive. At the same time you have to try and get on with it.
"You are then on to your second chairman in six months and there are the challenges on the pitch as well."
It looked promising, very promising for a while, on the pitch after a solid start to the season, but come the start of 2010 Watford's results had started to take a turn for the worse and that general trend was to continue to the point that relegation looked a genuine prospect, only for survival to be secured thanks to two uplifting results at the end of the campaign.
"We knew consistency was going to be a problem with this squad as the year went on," the Watford manager admitted. "The fact we had managed to do reasonably well up to Christmas helped.
"The staff realised it would be a big challenge to, a) keep the consistency going with this young squad and b) that the pitches would turn from December onwards and our football was going to suffer.
"We knew there were challenges ahead. I don’t think that January helped because of the three games called off because it pushed them into March and April which meant you were then playing catch-up and playing 12 games in six or seven weeks, which with a squad our our size and experience catches up with you.
"If you have the squad of a Newcastle of West Brom, then you can shuffle it about a bit but we were having to put out our best XI at all times.
"We had a great injury record until we started playing Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday. I think that is when it caught up with us.
"We then dropped down the league and the main aim was to simply stay in the division. We were working hard enough to reach the 52 points but the amount of games didn't help.
"To finish the way we did emphatically the last two weeks and be able blood the youngsters helped immensely.
"On the last day of the season, 11 of the squad were from the Academy which says a lot about our youth set up."
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