Unrest, poor signings and tactics: Next Rangers manager playing with poor cards as Michael Beale's failed tenure lets Celtic slip away again

After the 3-1 defeat by Aberdeen on Saturday, it wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when. And the Rangers board acted swiftly, announcing manager Michael Beale and his coaching staff had been sacked on Sunday night.

Truth be told, Beale has been living on borrowed time for weeks. He lost the majority of the Rangers fanbase long ago. One more damaging result, combined with the 1-0 reversal by Kilmarnock on the opening day of the Premiership season, the 5-1 Champions League thrashing by PSV and the 1-0 Old Firm defeat by Celtic, was going to seal the Englishman’s fate. Losing to the Dons in such an emphatic fashion was it.

Beale’s demise should not be celebrated, as he is a thoroughly decent individual who has acted with class and decorum throughout his ten months in charge of Rangers. He was a reasonably popular appointment on November 28 last year due to his association with Steven Gerrard’s successful reign as a coach. Taking over from Giovanni van Bronckhorst, much of last season was a free hit with a squad on its way out. Rangers performed well under him in that period but with the pressure, to a degree, off his shoulders, the acid test of Beale would be the start of this season. He did not pass it.

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Backed by the board during a very busy summer window in which deadwood was cleared out, Beale brought in nine new players for roughly £15million: Jack Butland, Dujon Sterling, Leon Balogun, Kieran Dowell, Jose Cifuentes, Abdallah Sima, Cyriel Dessers, Danilo and Sam Lammers. Some of these arrivals were much-vaunted – Ecuadorian midfielder Cifuentes was billed as the player to take Rangers to the “next level” – but the grim reality is that only goalkeeper Butland has been successful. The rest have struggled to make a tangible impact, with players such as Dessers really toiling with the expectation level of being at Rangers. His winter window was more successful, with Todd Cantwell and Nicolas Raskin largely impressing

New signings such as Cyriel Dessers have not worked out for Rangers so far.New signings such as Cyriel Dessers have not worked out for Rangers so far.
New signings such as Cyriel Dessers have not worked out for Rangers so far.

Beale never hid from what was required at Rangers. A man who has steeped himself in the traditions and culture of the club, he would be the first to admit that results have not been good enough towards the end of his 307-day tenure. Beale only lost eight games in charge of Rangers but four of them have come in the first two months of this season. His post-match press conference after losing to Aberdeen wore all the hallmarks of a manager who knew his time was up. Bringing back suits as pre-match attire is all well and good but he simply wasn’t able to hit the standards needed to be a success on the pitch. Latterly, the team played without a clear strategy and identity. His new players have let him down badly, particularly in the forward areas, but the boss always carries the can in such situations.

Operating without a sporting director since the departure of Ross Wilson to Nottingham Forest in April has probably not helped matters either. Beale did much of the transfer spadework on his own, meeting prospective signings face-to-face while managing and coaching. Perhaps he was a man spreading himself too thin. The neglect in not bolstering the defensive core of the team has cost Rangers. Most of the backline is creaking. James Tavernier, Connor Goldson and Borna Barisic have been part of that for years and Beale was not able to shore up that area of the team, either tactically or with fresh personnel. Injuries this season to a number of players have been detrimental but look across the city and Celtic have their own troubles on that front to seek too. It is not a viable excuse.

What is probably most galling for Rangers’ board is that there appeared an opportunity to steal a march on Celtic, who went through a managerial change in the summer and lost one of their best players in Jota. Alas, Brendan Rodgers’ men pinched the first derby in Rangers’ backyard and have found a way to win almost all of their matches. On the same day that Rangers wilted at Ibrox against Aberdeen, Celtic scored a goal in 97 minutes to prevail at Motherwell.

The fortunes of Rangers and Celtic are so intertwined that such an occurrence was always going to heighten supporter mood at each club. Rangers fans have had it in for Beale for some time now, the anger and vitriol increasing with each passing match. In hindsight, a manager with such a bare CV – five months in charge of QPR in England’s second tier and an approach from Wolves just before Rangers made the call – should not be spearheading a radical overhaul of a club of Rangers’ stature.

Rangers CEO James Bisgrove and chairman John Bennett, left, now have to find a new manager.Rangers CEO James Bisgrove and chairman John Bennett, left, now have to find a new manager.
Rangers CEO James Bisgrove and chairman John Bennett, left, now have to find a new manager.

With that, Rangers are likely to take their time with the next appointment. Chairman John Bennett and chief executive James Bisgrove know they cannot afford to be sacking managers every 12 months. Beale’s contract ran until 2026 so removing him and his coaches Neil Banfield, Damian Matthew, Harry Watling and Jack Ade will not come cheap. Steven Davis will lead the caretaker management team of Alex Rae, Steven Smith, Brian Gilmour, and Colin Stewart. The club is understood to have no licensing concerns about them operating in UEFA competitions, with their first match at the tiller in Cyprus on Thursday night against Aris. The likelihood is that they will oversee matters for a few weeks.

Given Rangers’ stature, there won’t be a paucity of candidates to replace Beale. But given where they are right now in the title race, whomever comes in is starting with a handicap of (a) the league position and (b) Beale’s players, which have not been satisfactory. The two forwards in Danilo and Dessers have performed well in Holland and the Ibrox board will hope a fresh voice can get a tune out of those brought in under the previous regime.

Once again, though, Rangers find themselves rebuilding from a position of weakness. Less than 18 months ago, they contested the Europa League final. Invincible champions in the 2020/21 campaign, Celtic have been since allowed to stride into the distance. Beale’s tenure was silverware-less failure, and the Rangers support will not tolerate another one.