It’s little wonder the Ibrox club utilise such a magnificent space on special occasions. It’s their equivalent of bringing out the best china tea set for visitors. But Michael Beale is no visitor. He’s all-in, to borrow a phrase.
Beale is only the club’s 18th manager. He will appreciate the effort made. But he would also have to concede – and, indeed, has already done so – that he lacks the stardust of the last two men who sat where he was sitting on Thursday, flanked by sporting director Ross Wilson and Stewart Robertson, the Rangers managing director. A large grandfather clock stood in the far corner. It started chiming midway through one of his answers. “Good timing,” smiled Beale.
His move back north has certainly proved good timing with regards to his family, who Beale revealed had been planning to return to Glasgow in any case, having failed to settle in England. They built up strong ties with the area during their initial stay when Beale was first-team coach under Steven Gerrard.
“I lived in the countryside and we went through Covid there as a family,” he explained. “We went on long walks and did everything everyone else did with their families at that time. It was where my children first went to school. It’s been difficult the last year. My family moved in February, not November, to the West Midlands and then I moved three months later to London. It’s not been easy with a young family. The kids have not settled. They were due to come back and live in Glasgow regardless.”
Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s struggles meant a vacancy fell open at a club Beale cannot speak more highly about. “This was my destiny,” he claimed. “It was from the day I left. When I decided to become a manager, it was a job I really wanted to do in the future. It’s come at me very, very quickly. But having been here three-and-half- years and ridden everything else there is no-one more experienced in this club right now, with this group of players, than me.”
He knows what some are saying. Even fans question his credentials: just 21 games as a manager, at Championship club Queen’s Park Rangers. “But it took me 21 years to get here,” he says, with reference to coaching posts at the Liverpool Academy, Sao Paulo and Aston Villa, among other places.
But he knows he lacks the usual stature required of a Rangers manager. He himself referred to the pedigree of the previous two incumbents, who were both skippers of their country and major football personalities in their own right.
It’s unfair to make comparisons with Gerrard, since few could muster the crowds and generate the scenes witnessed at his coronation in May 2018. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s arrival, meanwhile, also stirred Rangers fans on account of his past deeds and Ibrox association.
It’s fair to say crowd control measures were not required to be put in place at around 5pm in Edmiston Drive. It was admittedly a cold day at the beginning of December. However, the scheduling was supporter-friendly. Often such unveilings take place during work hours, forcing fans to come up with ingenious excuses to skip work in the hope they might catch sight of the new manager at the front door with scarf outstretched.
In the case of Gerrard, who was unveiled in the early afternoon, Rangers were forced to open the lower part of the Bill Struth main stand to accommodate the well-wishers. Beale knows this. He watched the remarkable scenes unfold live on television while still at Liverpool. “Obviously I already knew I was coming, so it was hugely exciting,” he said.
It was a case of silent night at Ibrox. More attended the clashing Martin O’Neill event at Parkhead that saw the former Celtic manager return to his old stomping ground to promote his new book, On Days Like These. O’Neill was given the same brief now handed to Beale across the city. Catch the other lot, basically.
Beale, 42, is confident he can instigate a revival, although he was careful to point out that he didn’t feel the patient was anything like as sick as being painted. He knows many of the players already. One of them, Glen Kamara, played his best football under Gerrard and Beale. If the midfielder can’t reproduce his best form now, then you wonder if he ever will. Beale has brought in Neil Banfield from his staff at Queens Park Rangers. Banfield used to work with Kamara at Arsenal.
“He will be a big player for Rangers moving forward,” promised Beale. “Glen was previously recruited for a style that suited Glen. When new managers come in, they try things out, which is none of my business, to be honest. What my business is, is getting the best out of Glen today.” The same applies in the case of Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos, players who appear to be similarly drifting.
Beale was reminded of Gerrard’s ‘Let’s go!’ rallying cry. No doubt conscious of how long it took for his last call to arms – his pledge to QPR fans that he was “all in” – to turn to dust, Beale was unable to conjure up a similar manifesto off-the-cuff.
“I haven’t got that slogan, because that slogan was almost genius!” he said. “I was trying to top it, but I couldn’t so fair play to Steven.
“This club got back to where it wanted to be,” he added. “Winning the league and getting into the Champions League and, thrown into that, it got into a European final as well. Let’s not make out everything is broken round here. Because, for me, it was broken at other times. This is the time to go forward.”