Rangers

Rangers: Talk is cheap but ‘genius’ Michael Beale has paid ultimate price at Ibrox

Brevity was never Michael Beale’s bag at Ibrox, but the talking shop that his regime became did not begin and end with the now former Rangers manager.

Back in April, his assistant, Neil Banfield, said some things about the supposed abilities of his boss that would have made the great American showman P.T. Barnum blush. Then, and now, Banfield’s words were jaw-dropping.

“You can see where he is going, his trajectory,” said Banfield of Beale. “You talk about Julian Nagelsmann, Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino. Micky Beale is not far off that, let me tell you.

“The way that he operates, structures the club and works with his staff. He has first-class qualities all the way through. He reminds me very much of Arsene Wenger.”

How do you even begin to unpack that? German, French and English league-winning managers, a Champions League-winning manager, a Club World Cup winner. And Michael Beale?

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Those comments appeared on the same weekend as a Rangers loss to Aberdeen at Pittodrie, a result that ensured Celtic’s lead at the top of the Premiership stretched out to 13 points when it had been nine points when Beale was appointed.

The defeat came a fortnight after Celtic had beaten Rangers in the league and a week before Celtic put them out of the Scottish Cup. Beale was only in management a wet week, but Banfield’s bluster boomed out none the less.

In July, new Rangers signing Dujon Sterling called Beale a “genius”, the same word Jermain Defoe used a few years ago when describing his former coach. Silence, sometimes, is the language of the wise.

Beale secured the Rangers job after a sum total of 22 games as a manager at QPR. They were sitting seventh in the second tier of English football when he left, after promising the fans that he would stay.

In his previous five games at QPR he had lost four (against Birmingham, West Brom, Huddersfield and Coventry) and had drawn with Norwich, having suffered losses earlier in the season to Luton, Swansea, Blackpool, Blackburn and League One Charlton in the EFL Cup.

Watch Beale’s final interview as Rangers manager

From there, with nine wins on his CV, he went directly to Ibrox and one of the most pressurised jobs in the British game. The decision-makers at Rangers alighted on his years as Steven Gerrard’s assistant and the so-called brains behind an operation that had yielded one trophy from nine attempts.

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It was a big one, admittedly. Stopping Celtic from reaching their 10-in-a-row target was one thing, but doing it in the style that Rangers did it was another. They were very good in the league that season, but it didn’t last.

Big presence needed at Ibrox

Banfield’s bravado was just the continuation of a theme. Too much talk, not enough action. What did for Beale was his dismal success rate in the transfer market during the summer.

Cyriel Dessers has three goals (against Servette, Morton and Motherwell) in 13 games. Sam Lammers has scored once (against Livingston) in 14 matches. Two attacking players costing seven figures have delivered four goals in 27 appearances. Antonio Colak, sold to Parma, got 18 in 39 last season.

Fashion Sakala was nobody’s idea of a go-to player, but his 12 goals last season and his 12 goals the season before are totals that look highly respectable now. Sakala was sold to the Saudi Pro League in the summer. Alex Lowry and Ianis Hagi are out on loan. Is that sensible when the players bought to replace them are toiling so badly?

Beale ‘has himself to blame’ for Rangers failure

Beale was backed handsomely. Between freed-up wages on the biggest earners (Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos, Filip Helander and others) and transfer fees received for Glen Kamara, Colak and Sakala they had an opportunity to invest and rebuild, but what they lacked was the nous to land the right targets. They had a fast-talking rookie manager and no director of football. They were trying to make bricks without straw.

There was, and still is, a savvy vacuum at Ibrox. There was only one, and only ever will be one, Walter Smith, but it is his type of presence that’s desperately lacking in the football department now.

In the wake of the Beale show, they need somebody serious to instil a hard edge and a clarity, a manager with personality and wisdom. There’s not many people like that in Rangers’ price range. The pressure on the board to find one is intense.

‘Seville seems like another lifetime’

Steven Davis has been parachuted into the role as interim manager, a terrific player in his day and a really good person, but he’s another rookie and he could be there for some time because Rangers won’t be rushing this appointment like they rushed the last one.

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There is no wise head at Ibrox to help him, just a lot of other coaches – Steven Smith, Alex Rae, Brian Gilmour and Colin Stewart – who have been assembled as an emergency squad. They may as well put a flashing light on the top of their head on the way to training.

It’s a mighty demise from where they were in the season they made it all the way to the Europa League final. That seems like another lifetime.

They beat a Borussia Dortmund side that had Jude Bellingham and Manuel Akanji, subsequently sold to Real Madrid and Manchester City for £120m. They beat Braga who had Vitinha and David Carmo, a pair later sold for more than £50m. It was only May last year when they beat Leipzig with Josko Gvardiol, Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai, since bought by Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool for more than £200m.

That Rangers team played 120 minutes of European football against Braga on the Thursday and then beat Celtic on the Sunday, they lost the Europa League final on penalties on the Wednesday and came home from Seville to win the Scottish Cup on the Saturday.

They were a team with character and steel and had a manager, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who looked like he might be there for a long time. All of that went south rapidly.

Rangers have made many mis-steps since the heady days of their European run and their Scottish Cup win. They dynamited their own progress. Beale made no sense – not his appointment on a paper-thin track record as a manager, not his incredible self-confidence, not his formations, not his signings. It has been a weird time. In the footballing no man’s land they find themselves in, confusion reigns and nobody rules.

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