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Well, it’s fair to say that when the news of the impending appointment of Michael Beale broke on social media this afternoon that it caused quite the stir amongst Sunderland supporters.
Expecting Will Still or, at worst, a relatively unheard of young coach from Scandinavia, it seems most fans stood back with a look of bemusement as the news filtered through we were instead going with the man who was just fired by Rangers a few months back.
Virtually all the reaction I’ve seen from Rangers fans is that of pure hilarity. I’ve seen some call him their worst ever manager, and others recount the amount of times he made a fool of himself whilst in the chair. It’s safe to say they aren’t a fan.
The reaction from fans of Queens Park Rangers - the club he left to head to Ibrox last season - comes along the same lines, although there do seem to be many who rated him as a coach but perhaps not so much as a man — something which isn’t a shock given the way he messed them around during negotiations with Wolves, before preaching about loyalty and then leaving for one of the big two clubs in Scotland soon after.
As Sunderland fans we see all of this and read all of this and we then try and make our own minds up. As of writing, nothing has been confirmed but usually when an outlet as reputable as The Athletic report it, it’s as good as done. Beale is expected to be in attendance at the Bristol City game tomorrow, which will all but seal the deal.
I’m trying my best to remain open minded about it all, as I do whenever we appoint a manager. My mates take joy in pointing out that I was trying to see the good in the Phil Parkinson appointment at the time, but that’s generally the way I see things. No matter who they are or what they’ve done before, they’re here now and they get a clean slate from me. It’s up to them to prove to me and the rest of the fans why they’re the right man for the job.
The one big thing that gives me hope is that we’re not appointing Michael Beale to be our manager, but our Head Coach. I know one of the big criticisms of his time at Rangers was the players he allowed to leave and then the quality of the players he replaced them with, but we know already that at Sunderland the Head Coach has very little say in regards to transfers. It was a big part of the reason why Alex Neil and Tony Mowbray eventually moved on, so taking that into consideration, whoever the next man through the door actually is, they have to be prepared to work with whatever they’ve got.
In this piece for the site which I put together with QPR fansite LoftForWords, the one crumb of hope they gave us is that as a coach he’s actually alright. His win ratio in Scotland was pretty high and from what I gather, he only lost four games up there and they were mostly to Celtic. His QPR team were riding high in the Championship around the time we played them at the SOL early in the season - he left, and by the time the season ended they’d just about survived relegation. Was that because he was overachieving? We’ll never know, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered in my mind about his ability as a Championship coach and what he could potentially do with a better set of players.
I’m finding it hard to get too emotional, either positively or negatively. I’m very much on the fence with this appointment and I’m content with that, because it’s happening whether I like it or not and, as I said before, any new coach coming through the door at Sunderland gets a clean slate from me.
What’s very clear is that, given the volume of criticism this seemingly impending appointment has already received, if it is Beale’s job he’s not going to have much of a honeymoon period and needs to prove himself immediately. He joined a huge club at Rangers and floundered, so will he do the same with a second bite of the cherry at Sunderland?
So, he might be shite, be might be alright - I guess we’re going to find out soon.