Louden Tavern Rangers visit seems world away for Michael Beale as Aberdeen rivalry welcomed and Cyriel Dessers' form discussed

A Rangers-Aberdeen fixture is always to be relished. One even drew Michael Beale back to Ibrox last season for the first time since his departure 12 months earlier alongside Steven Gerrard for Aston Villa.

His reappearance raised eyebrows at the time since it came during a difficult spell for the then managerial incumbent, Giovanni van Bronckhorst. But then, as Beale might now attest, when is it not a difficult period for a Rangers manager? This is particularly true when their rivals are also refusing to be knocked off course.

Rangers are winning and not conceding goals and yet still feel on the verge of a crisis. It says everything about the unsettled life of an Ibrox manager that Beale might now have to think twice about entering the Louden Tavern, as he did prior to that Aberdeen game just under a year ago.

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He was roundly welcomed inside that famously partisan Rangers bar last October. As Gerrard’s former lieutenant, he had credit in the bank and was also not damaged by the sense, shared by some, that Gerrard had done a runner following the first half-decent offer from England. Beale had simply followed his boss. It was not his decision.

Michael Beale - the then manager of QPR - visited Ibrox in October last year to take in Rangers v Aberdeen. Now he is managing in the fixture.Michael Beale - the then manager of QPR - visited Ibrox in October last year to take in Rangers v Aberdeen. Now he is managing in the fixture.
Michael Beale - the then manager of QPR - visited Ibrox in October last year to take in Rangers v Aberdeen. Now he is managing in the fixture.

Indeed, many saw him as a Rangers manager-in-waiting. And so it proved, sooner than some might have predicted – or even wanted. Even Beale, by then in charge at Queens Park Rangers, would have preferred slightly more distance between that well-publicised return for the Aberdeen match and his appointment as Van Bronckhorst successor just four weeks later. He knew how it looked.

“I had been away probably ten or 11 months and the Rangers fixtures always clashed with Aston Villa’s or QPR’s,” he explained at his Friday press conference. “And the club had constantly been inviting back, or at least the people inside it had, and when my game got moved to the Friday for Sky that was the one week I could do it, while also coming back to sort some personal things out...

“I always said I wanted to come back for a game,” he added. “It’s a bit like the games with Celtic, it’s watched world wide and I always thought I’d like to go to that game (v Aberdeen). It’s not quite the same when you are in the dugout, I promise you…”

Beale might well yearn for those carefree days when he could sit among fans and simply watch the game and not have to worry about players under-performing – particularly when they are players you’ve staked your reputation on. Then there’s the injuries. Beale’s luck is not improving on that front, with Kemar Roofe (again) the latest to be sidelined. The striker is definitely missing from Saturday’s clash against Aberdeen after succumbing to tightness in his groin during the midweek League Cup win over Livingston.

Beale knows that there is more to come from Rangers striker Cyriel Dessers.Beale knows that there is more to come from Rangers striker Cyriel Dessers.
Beale knows that there is more to come from Rangers striker Cyriel Dessers.

Cyriel Dessers, perhaps the signing with most to prove to date, could step in. Despite three goals and a contender for assist-of-the-season against PSV Eindhoven, the striker has so far failed to win over the home support. “Listen,” pondered Beale. “There’s a couple of things here.” The manager pointed to another ‘assist’, for Roofe in the narrow defeat to Celtic at the start of this month, that he felt would have given the player lift off. But the goal was chalked off because Dessers was controversially adjudged to have fouled Celtic defender Gustaf Lagerbielke in the run-up.

“If he gets the assist there and adds that assist to his one against PSV then I think people will see him not only as a goalscorer … In moments he has shown, but of course he’s looking for a rhythm and a consistency. He’s been out of the team recently so it’s an opportunity for him, if he plays, to come in and stake a claim.”

With the home fans evidently on the cusp of revolt, it’s helpful that Aberdeen are the next team in town. After Celtic, they are the team who Rangers supporters most enjoy getting one over. Supporters of both sides also revel in the to-and-fro before, during and after games. With away fans not currently permitted to attend Old Firm fixtures, this is an afternoon when Rangers fans have good reason not to focus quite so intently on what is going on on the pitch. Beale believes this can help his players, who wouldn’t be human if they were unaware and unaffected by the sense that fans are simply waiting for a mistake to be made to give vent to their frustration.

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“It is a healthy rivalry as long as it stays on the pitch, you don’t want it going outside that,” said the Ibrox manager. “But it is nice, the away fans and the home fans going at each other. I think that’s what makes football sometimes as well. When you play at Ibrox and your home fans have got only your players to judge and they ain’t having the back-and-forth with the opposition, they can be a little less patient.”

All this might be wishful thinking on Beale’s part, however. Rangers fans are well aware of Aberdeen’s struggles this season and while Barry Robson’s side have enjoyed an improved 10-day period, Beale himself pointed out that they have still only beaten one team – Ross County, who they beat twice in five days – since a win over Stirling Albion in August. Home supporters will expect to win – and win well, as Rangers did in front of Beale last October by four goals to one.

“I’m sure Aberdeen are really trying to kick-start their season this week,” he said. “They have beaten Ross County twice but the reality is that the only team they’ve beaten is Ross County.

“If the boys deserve the praise from outside I am sure they will get it,” Beale added. “Four clean sheets on the bounce and if we get a positive result at the weekend, I’m sure people will say that’s a positive run of results. For us as a team we need to keep going. The opinion and noise outside will obviously follow our results.”