Cardiff City v Crystal Palace: The Launch Pad For Glasgow's Next Managerial Genius

Young, Glaswegian and with a passing interest in mind games. Are Dougie Freedman and Malky Mackay Sir Alex and King Kenny Mark Two?
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Young, Glaswegian and with a passing interest in mind games. Are Dougie Freedman and Malky Mackay Sir Alex and King Kenny Mark Two?

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No sooner had Crystal Palace's Dougie Freedman and Cardiff City's Malky Mackay both pipped their respective Premiership opposition in the League Cup quarter-finals did they duly find out they'd been paired against eachother in the next round.

Fans of any Championship club would, under normal circumstances, be salivating for another opportunity to scalp a top-flight team having just seen them freshly dispose of one. Especially those who'd ventured north to see Palace convincingly bedevil the Red Devils in their own back yard.

Manchester City and Liverpool were drawn in the first semi-final fixture though, instantly establishing themselves as the 'tie of the round' and leaving the last remaining second flight sides to battle it out over two legs for the chance to get to their first ever League Cup final.

Post-match groans followed then, as both Palace and Cardiff fans bemoaned the Scottish league type fixture scenario imposed on them, and the reality of watching each other play four times in a now-congested season. Then, it dawned. Over 180 minutes, what would be the chances of beating City or Liverpool to make it to Wembley anyway? Slim. But in facing eachother, Wembley felt that bit nearer.

"Cardiff know only too well what it is like to fall at the last hurdle."

Indeed, this view was adopted immediately by Freedman, Mackay, players from both clubs and board members. 'It's what we would have wanted, no disrespect to Cardiff." conceded Palace chairman Steve Parish.

With the tie delicately poised 1-0 in Palace's favour, tonights second leg has been given extra spice in the build-up thanks to some uncharacteristic words volunteered by Freedman in his weekly column for Croydon Advertiser.

"Cardiff know only too well what it is like to fall at the last hurdle."

"When you get in stressful situations it is difficult not to think of the past, and when you have their recent history of being beaten in the play-offs so often, they must have some very unhappy memories."

Disrespect is just how it has been interpreted in south Wales. As a god-send for any disinterested journalists covering the game, Dougie Freedman has exhibited his maiden attempt at pre-match mind games. It's a surprising affront to his opposite number Mackay, with both having publicly shown warmth to eachother before now.

So where are we at, now that the eagle has been put firmly among the sheep?

Perhaps there's more than meets the eye than just peer pressure approaching kick off. Besides the fact both Freedman and Mackay have the same roots, there's close history and marked differences between them too.

Almost as if the behavioural instincts from their playing days still possess them, as bolshy centre half contends with wily, withdrawn striker.

The hulkish, suited-and-booted Mackay commands his touchline area a la Sam Allardyce in stark contrast to the studious, inermittent and tracksuited Freedman. Almost as if the behavioural instincts from their playing days still possess them, as bolshy centre half contends with wily, withdrawn striker.

What's not been mentioned is that even though Freedman has pointed out recent semi-final failings at the hands of tonights rivals, Mackay was in the winning Watford team that convincingly knocked Palace out of the 2006 play off semi finals, heralding Andy Johnson's last ever game for the Eagles. A semi final line up that also featured Dougie Freedman.

Rapid progress and the consequential spotlight has come quickly for both young managers. Taking up their challenging roles so fluidly after finishing long playing careers has made it easier to gain the trust and kinsmanship of their young players and older pros alike, their abbreviated forenames no doubt enhancing their amiability and 'my door is always open' ethos.

Tactically both Douglas and Malcolm have approached tonights game contrarily. Freedman resting 9 first teamers at Blackpool on Saturday whilst Mackay focused on consolidating their pursuit of 3 points with a full strength side at home to Portsmouth. Both set ups achieving predictable results.

Or he may end up eating his pre-match words, making him wish he'd used more tasteful ones.

We're likely to see Palace try and replicate their Old Trafford performance in Cardiff then, snuffing out Whittingham's midfield supply line with 2.5 defensive central midfielders, pressing on the counter with pace on the wings. Cardiff are expected to come out and appease a raucous home crowd with early pressure and make short work of levelling the tie. Both of which should lead to an expansive second half. Freedman will be hoping his rested first choice team will have the legs and concentration to cope should the game reach extra time. Or he may end up eating his pre-match words, making him wish he'd used more tasteful ones.

Having never played for particularly fashionable clubs, both managers are international nearly-men, with only token caps between them. Mackay holding the record as oldest ever debutant for Scotland aged 37. The same can be said for Sir Alex Ferguson, the original Scottish managerial mastermind who barely represented Scotland as a player but went on to great success in club management. And whilst tonights coaches can't yet be aligned with him in anything but nationality, they, like he, had to start somewhere. Where better than this evening, and at Wembley next month.

Follow Jesse on Twitter here

Other Cardiff City Stories Here:

Cardiff City Half-Term Report: Hail King Malky

Cardiff City: How Malky Mackay Won Fans And Introduced Passion

How Peter Whittingham Became Cardiff City's Golden Boy

Other Crystal Palace Stories Here:

The Greatest Goal I Ever Saw: Crystal Palace's Mark Bright vs Liverpool

I Love Crystal Palace But I'm Having An Affair With Cardiff City

A Crystal Palace Fan On Why Liverpool Don't Deserve Wilfried Zaha...Yet

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