Rangers boss Michael Beale on why he 'likes' Hearts and backs them over demotion 'injustice'
He isn’t just a champion of the club, their stadium, possible title prospects, manager Robbie Neilson, chairwoman Anne Budge and, heck, even the capital that is home to them. The 42-year-old remains firmly in Hearts’ corner over the “injustice” he continues to believe was perpetrated against them when the 2019-20 season was abridged after the Covid-19 global pandemic struck. The mid-March 2020 shutdown came only three weeks after the Gorgie side shook off horrendous form to spear Steven Gerrard’s side in the Scottish Cup. It led to the former Liverpool captain, who had Beale as his right hand man, initially considering his future. Soon it was Hearts who had no immediate future in the top flight after the Premiership campaign following a controversial vote. It led to league placings being determined by average points per game, resulting in Hearts remaining bottom - as they had been, by a four-point margin, when the final eight games could not then be played - and being banished to the Championship.
Beale appears to have forgiven Hearts for what occurred on what proved the last trip to Tynecastle in his first Rangers stint, but still feels the treatment of them soon afterwards was unforgivable. "That was the biggest injustice of that season, for sure,” he said. “I thought at the time, you can’t relegate a team like that. We were going into an uncertain time with Covid and we didn’t know how the game was going to be afterwards. We know we are in a country where the finances are not what they are just over the border. I thought that was particularly a tough decision at the time, it was probably not in the spirit of the game. I don’t want to take that too far but I thought it was really uncomfortable at the time watching that.”
Now, firmly Scotland’s third force - underpinned by some audacious signings - the Rangers manager does not see it as fanciful to believe they can pitch higher and enter the title mix. His regard for Budge over the pivotal role she played in hauling her club out of the financial abyss makes that development one he would appear to welcome. “I think it is almost taking a leap of faith in terms of a manager and style of play and maybe holding on to one or two,” he said. “Robbie has done a fantastic job and I think Anne, over the years, has had some tough times. Outside of the games we play against them, I am actually quite pleased for her as well that the club is doing well. She has given the club as much as she could. Hearts is a club that I like and I like Edinburgh as a city. It’s always a good game when you go over there as they go for us…and at the moment why wouldn’t they? It’s a nice feeling when you go into the stadium. The fans are close and that’s the kind of stadiums I like.”
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