Hall of Shame #1 Dave Mackay: The man who sold Don Rogers
The Hall of Shame kicks off as we induct former Swindon Town manager Dave Mackay. Mackay’s presence at the club caused instability from the start. His brief reign as manager from 1st November 1971 to 1st November 1972 ripped apart the 1969 League Cup winning side, sending Town on a downward spiral which took fifteen years to recover from.
A legend at Hearts, Spurs and Derby County, Mackay was brought to the club for £20,000 by the Board with the sole intention of being installed as player-manager, however he refused to agree to ousting the incumbant manager Fred Ford.
Mackay remained as a player for the time being, however his presence competing with legend and captain Stan Harland in midfield created friction from the start. Ford tried unsuccessfully to fit both players into the side moving Harland into a midfield role – a move which only resulted in more poor performances. Ford lasted until 1st November 1971, when a home defeat by Middlesbrough two days before sealed his fate – the board perhaps unfairly sacking him and Mackay inevitably replacing him.
While Swindon did survive in Division Two that season it came at a price. Mackay’s first decision was to drop 1969 winning captain Harland, who immediately requested a transfer and left to join Birmingham and became an integral part of their promotion winning side. This decision was to be the start of the dismantling of the magnificent 1969 League Cup winning XI.
The following season was Town’s fourth successive season in the second tier. After the successes of 1969 and 1970 the club had started to settle as a mid table Division Two side however Mackay wanted more, stating he couldn’t win something for Swindon, then he would quit.
While no manager should be criticised for their ambitions it soon became apparent that Mackay’s unrealistic expectations combined with the Board’s financial disregard and aiming to keep their man in the dugout happy, both overcommited the club at the worst possible time. Mackay demanded to be supported in his push for the Division Two title and pushed Town to the brink of financial collapse after doubling the record transfer fee paid by signing Irish international Ray Tracey from Charlton Athletic for £35,000 – as a replacement for Arthur Horsfield.
After a very slow start to the season, Town were staring relegation in the face. Gates were falling and the financing of the Arkells Stand was starting to pinch, so in October matters came to a head as the entire playing staff was put up for sale.
Everyone was only interested in one player; Don Rogers. After 490 appearances and 181 goals in all competitions, it was inevitable someone would soon pounce for Rogers’ signing. In stepped Crystal Palace, managed by former boss Bert Head, who paid £147,000 for his capture. In one sweep, Town’s key asset and crowd draw was gone. It was always downhill from here.
On the same day the ‘Don’ departed, Mackay signed Tom Jenkins joined as his ‘replacement’. A nigh-on impossible task for any player to fill the great man’s boots, but Jenkins? This signing was also at a considerable cost as Jenkins became Mackay’s second club record signing for £50,000.
After only days since selling the family silver in Rogers and with Town now sitting sixteenth, a slender two points above the relegation zone and looking at a battle to avoid relegation, manager Mackay quit, citing personal reasons for his decision. The questions were asked; why sell Rogers, our idol, a matter of days before chucking in the towel?
Low and behold the Scot turned up at the City Ground, Nottingham a few days later paraded as their new manager. A decision that would cement his hatred in Swindon only a matter of days after selling Rogers. Perhaps he was tapped up and just frustrated at his worsening situation at Swindon, in the end Mackay never had a heart for the club and ultimately removed Town’s heart while it was still beating.
As for Mackay’s big money signings; Tracey had a patchy goalscoring record with sixteen goals in 55 appearances before departing in December 1973. Rogers’ replacement Tom Jenkins would fail to settle, struggling to hold down a first team place and scored just five goals in 115 appearances for the Town. The purchase of Mackay himself and his two big signings totalled at £105,000, a massive amount for the club at the time and hardly good value for the money…