Michael Beale's clumsy Celtic title and referee pressure comments are very telling

By John McGinley

April 7, 2023

Michael Beale has lurched from one odd media comment to another since arriving as Rangers manager – certainly, a fair amount of them have been about Celtic. No surprise then that we get some this week ahead of his third derby.

The Rangers boss seems to have attempted to deflect pressure away from himself ahead of Saturday’s match at Celtic Park. He reckons referee Kevin Clancy will be feeling the heat tomorrow and that the Scottish Premiership title is Celtic’s to ‘throw away’. You’d think Rangers and Beale are carefree with nothing to lose – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Beale’s comments are very telling in some ways – it seems he’s expecting a very tough afternoon in the East End of Glasgow and that he’s already setting expectations for what could occur.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

When asked about having no away fans at tomorrow’s match, Beale said [The Scottish Sun]: “It impacts it because it’s very hostile when you go. I think the referees are under a huge amount of pressure. Even having just a few fans is better than none, I would say. You’d always rather some fans, even if it was only a small amount. I just think it adds to the flavour of the game and, again, the pressure it puts on the referee if you have a large crowd in favour of one team.”

And, as quoted by Sky Sports, he said of the context around the derby: “Since I came back in it is 15 league games, 14 wins and a draw. We have played our part. It is fair to say Celtic have played their part as well and have done equally as well as us. In that sense, the players have done nearly everything they can do.

“Tomorrow we will find out if we are three points closer, no closer or three points further behind. Ultimately, all we can do is win our games. It is Celtic’s league to throw away, or lose, and it doesn’t look like, outside games against us, that they will drop points.”

In setting the ‘referee pressure’ narrative early he’s laying the groundwork for being on the wrong end of a result and blaming it on events outside of his control, while his second set of comments also intimate tomorrow’s match doesn’t have much importance in the title race win, lose or draw.

No surprise that Beale doesn’t mention being beaten by the Bhoys in a cup final and that Celtic have actually done more than ‘equally as well’ as his team – Ange’s team have been better by most metrics beyond just points, not least in growing a goal difference advantage. It should also be noted that Celtic have dropped more points to St Mirren than Rangers this season.

This kind of defensive language says to me that it’s actually Beale feeling the pressure a little. He knows that a defeat to Celtic tomorrow piles it on him – as Rangers pundits such as Mark Hateley have already said. I don’t think he can escape the responsibility of whatever the result is tomorrow, as much as he’s tried in the build-up.

The Bhoys moving 12 points ahead would be a massive blow to Rangers supporters and that can’t really be argued, even if you point out the title race seems well beyond the Ibrox side already.

Hopefully, Celtic can do the business on the park again and show everyone that all there’s really been since Beale arrived in Glasgow is bluster.

In other news, Ange signals Tomoki Iwata and Celtic midfield readiness vs Rangers after Reo Hatate injury.