Tucked away towards the bottom of an entertaining interview in Saturday’s Scotsman with Don Mackay is the 72 year-old’s take on how his ill-fated time as Fulham manager ended.
Mackay spent three years at Craven Cottage and things deteriorated pretty quickly after a fairly promising start. Many fans held him responsible for the club’s lamentable descent down to the old Fourth Division, although the man himself still feels badly let down by chairman Jimmy Hill, who stormed into the dressing room to lambast his manager at half time during a London derby at Leyton Orient, having already appeared by the visiting dugout during the first half.
Hill couldn’t help himself. At half-time, and with Fulham trailing 1-0, he barged into the dressing-room.
“I have been here for so long, I deserve my say,” he informed Mackay. “He told the players, you are not doing this right, you are not doing that right. Then he went out of the door, and pointed at me and said: ‘you sort it out’.”
He did to an extent, with Fulham managing to score twice before conceding an equaliser at the end. Still, it was a point. According to Mackay, just nine more were needed from ten games to avoid relegation. He was not given the chance to earn them; he was let go the following day, and Fulham ended up a point shy of safety.
“I always used to go up to the boardroom to thank the opposition directors, manager and none of the Fulham directors were there, which was unusual,” he recalls. “On the Sunday morning the vice-chairman came to see me. He said: ‘you are no longer manager, we are taking it from you’.
“The thing that annoyed me is that Jimmy Hill never even told me, he went off to the League Cup final, I saw him on television. We haven’t spoken since.”
Just reliving that unfortunate episode makes it easy to reflect on just how far Fulham have come in the last twenty years. Mackay comes across as a thoughtful man with plenty of amusing anecdotes in the interview, but he had inherited a pretty promising side and oversaw a sorry slump. One of the gentleman who sits near me in the Hammersmith End still hasn’t forgiven Mackay for signing Mark Cooper, who scored one of the goals that relegated Fulham when playing for Exeter, after two years at the Cottage that were both frustrating and forgettable.