Michael Beale must put Rangers marker down against Celtic or he’ll find out what REAL pressure feels like – Kenny Miller

He’s only been in the job for 111 days. But Michael Beale is already fielding questions about being under serious pressure as Rangers’ manager.

Off the back of comments from Mark Hateley last week, he’s feeling a bit of heat. Now, let’s get one thing straight. Is Michael’s job under threat? Absolutely not. Should it be? Of course not. Next season will be the first time we’ll be able to say that this is HIS Rangers team. So Michael deserves to get the time to put that together, at the very least.

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But you’re under pressure every day at Rangers, as a player or a manager. It’s there constantly, I’ve felt it. It doesn’t go away. What was it the great Walter Smith said? You’re only ever one game away from a crisis. Rangers aren’t in crisis right now. But there was a huge negative reaction after one game – the League Cup Final defeat to Celtic at Hampden.

That’s because of what it meant and what was at stake. We know that. So far, Michael has had 19 games as Ibrox gaffer. After beating Motherwell yesterday, he’s had 17 wins, one draw and one defeat. The only points he’s dropped were against Celtic at home. And that’s where the pressure is coming from. Rangers’ failure to win any of the last four Old Firm games.

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Now, there are three derbies left, two in the Premiership and the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden. And make no mistake. If Michael doesn’t win any of those games against Celtic this season – there will be untold amounts of pressure at the start of next term. If he thought it was intense now, it will be multiplied this summer if he doesn’t put a marker down across the city.

Michael will know there has to be a vast improvement from his team in these games. Before he left the club as Steven Gerrard’s assistant, Rangers were on a terrific run against Celtic. But the pendulum has swung now. And that’s why the scrutiny has gone up a notch. If you look at what Michael has done since taking the job, he’s completed part one.

He’s beating everyone else in the league, which wasn’t happening under Gio van Bronckhorst. Too many points were being dropped against the likes of Motherwell, Aberdeen and others. Michael has fixed that. He’s had a real uplift and the team has improved. There’s no doubt about that. There’s a consistency in results now, with the odd outstanding display thrown in – like against Hibs at Easter Road the other week.

But the performances are still up and down. Look at the Raith Rovers cup game last weekend. It was back to being slow and boring again. And this Rangers team just isn’t good enough to decide when they want to turn it on and off. They have to maintain momentum going into next season and that means getting results against Celtic between now and May.

If they don’t, there WILL be questions over Michael’s job at the start of the new campaign. That might sound crazy. Because their league form right now is as good as when they won the 55th title unbeaten. Michael is defeating everyone else. Now, he doesn’t just have to beat Celtic – he has to beat them when it matters. And believe me, these final three Old Firm games matter to supporters.

(Image: SNS Group)

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His team must produce a performance when they’re really tested by the best team in the country. Of course, the cup semi-final is vital because there’s a trophy up for grabs and they’ll want to deny Celtic a Treble. But the league games are important as well. Because it’s a chance for Michael to say: ‘You might be winning this league – but we’re coming for you next year’. That’s when mentality comes into it.

As a Rangers player, my mindset would be, OK you’re champions, I’ll give you that for now. But we’ll be back to take it off you again. And Michael’s players have to show that in these games. Talk is cheap – they have to go and do it. Don’t say it, actually deliver it. That’s the kind of conviction Rangers fans want to see in the derbies that are left.

Every other team is being dealt with, now do it to Celtic. If they don’t? If they lose at Hampden and Ange Postecoglou’s side get their Treble? The other results won’t matter. And there will be an unbelievable amount of pressure heaped on to Michael and his players. I’m not telling him anything he doesn’t know. He’s lived in Glasgow for four years now.

So he’s fully aware of what the repercussions of failure are in this city. There is no longer an acceptance from supporters of trophy-less seasons at Rangers. A Scottish Cup win would represent a bit of success for the manager after just six months in the job. But if it doesn’t go his way? He’ll find out what real pressure feels like.


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