The Winner Takes It All, The Loser’s Standing Small

If, heaven forbid, Celtic were to lose this weekend’s Scottish League Cup Final, Chris Sutton, speaking to the Record Celtic podcast, believes Ange Postecoglou would have more than enough credit in the bank with the Celtic support to ride out any criticism that comes his way.

However, Sutton doesn’t feel rookie theRangers boss Michael Beale would be afforded quite the same level of patience once the fans at Ibrox sharpen their knives. And Sutton believes even at this stage of his career in the Ibrox hotseat, Sunday’s Glasgow Derby final could already be viewed as a ‘must win’ match for Beale.

“I think for Michael Beale it’s not necessarily a must-win but look at it this way. If Ange Postecoglou and Celtic don’t win the game, Celtic fans will be disappointed, of course they will, but there will still be that element of total trust in Postecoglou. If (the)Rangers lose the game will there be the same faith in Michael Beale?

“Who has come in and had plenty to say but hasn’t backed it up with the trophy? So that’s his issue. It’s a one-off game, and you could argue if (the)Rangers win the game and Celtic lose the game, I mean they (Celtic) are not going to try any harder, but they will really have to focus and use that as a tool to get them over the line.”

Sutton’s punditry in recent days has seen the former Celtic striker get under the skin of Mick Beale, leading to the strange situation of Beale responding directly to Sutton via the mainstream media and labelling him a ‘comedy act’.

IMAGO Photo – Stuart Wallace/Shutterstock

The move seems to have backfired somewhat on theRangers manager, with further evidence of his managerial naivety away from the tactics board following his sportsmanship approach to football going down like a lead balloon with the baying masses at Ibrox, and resulting in the unfurling of a banner against Livingston last week reminding Beale of theRangers lack of trophy success since their founding in 2012.

If Beale hopes to curry favour amongst the Ibrox fanbase by targeting Sutton, who has been banned from Ibrox when it comes to his media duties, it may work in the short term, and perhaps only as long as Sunday afternoon, if the League Cup trophy is successfully defended by Ange Postecoglou’s side.

“I think there would be a little bit of doubt because Celtic are the acid test, aren’t they? That’s just the way it is. We all know the Glasgow environment.

19th December 2021; Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland; Scottish League Cup final, Hibernian versus Celtic: Celtic Manager Angelos Postecoglou celebrates with the trophy

“What was important for Ange Postecoglou last season then? This is such an important thing, getting that first trophy under your belt.The point I am making is that Michael Beale has only been there a short space of time, it’s not fair to judge him on a one off final. It is not and his record has been excellent. But you can’t tell me that (when) there are three trophies up for grabs this season; you can’t tell me that if (the)Rangers lose that game then the pressure won’t intensify.

“This isn’t Michael Beale’s team as he wants it and he will add in the summer, but it does add a little bit more pressure and a little bit more doubt. The point I am making is that Ange Postecoglou has been in for 20 months and since he has been in Celtic have won a League Cup, a title and they are ahead in the league this season.

“But the most important thing is that Celtic fans have total faith in Ange Postecoglou. (the)Rangers fans over a very short period would have faith in terms of what Michael Beale has achieved so far, but if they don’t get over the line in this cup competition and win the Viaplay Cup there will be (the)Rangers fans (doubting him).

And Sutton also took the time to consider Beale’s limited managerial experience – he has still managed less games than Sutton has despite the former Celt leaving his last managerial position in 2010 – and pointed to Beale’s time in charge of QPR, where early hot form was soon replaced by a speedy downturn in results.

“Look you judge Michael Beale over a season or two seasons, but until he wins a trophy there will always be those doubts. He had a short spell at QPR and started brilliantly and in the end the wheels came off a little bit.

“And at (the)Rangers there will be those doubts because he is a rookie manager in terms of managing a club the size of (the)Rangers. That doesn’t mean he can’t achieve great things because he is clearly a talented coach but you have to prove yourself. In many respects it’s a must-win for Michael Beale.”

It is likely fans of the Scottish Premiership’s newest club will view Sutton’s remarks as another attempt to ramp up the pressure on Beale ahead of Sunday’s Derby, however Beale himself will know Sutton is not far off the mark.

After all, Beale was Steven Gerrard’s sidekick when the wheels came of theRangers title challenge in 2019, despite winning the Glasgow Derby and celebrating like the league title itself had been secured. And much like Beale’s QPR team soared high before floundering, by the time theRangers were losing at home to Hamilton, the calls for the head of Steven Gerrard were loud and clear, with only the intervention of a worldwide pandemic saving Gerrard from the sack.

As such a loss in Sunday’s final would immediately ensure Michael Beale’s honeymoon period would be over, particularly if, as is likely, theRangers cannot eat into Celtic’s nine-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership. After all patience is a commodity which tends to be in short supply at Ibrox when Celtic rule the roost.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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