Nobody has to like Michael Beale. I’m sure the club would be happier if everyone did, but it seems that he has very few allies at the minute, either inside or outside of the football club.
But I have to admit that I’m beginning to feel a little bit sorry for the guy (yes, even I with the stony heart), because the level of hatred being shown towards him by sections of the fanbase on social media is way out of wack with the reality of our situation. I’m really struggling to get it, despite being fully aware of all of his flaws.
And what are his flaws? Well, his personality is probably the big one and the main reason why I think people are struggling to get on board with him. Beale just isn’t a warm, fuzzy character, and never will be. He’s pretty bland and inoffensive, and certainly not the type of fella you’d think would connect to the people of Wearside.
He’s not really my cup of tea as a bloke, but then I’m a traditionalist. I like ranters and ravers, who are a little bit mad but who are also very entertaining. I don’t think I’m alone in that thought — up here we do seem to prefer ‘real blokes’ that tell it how it is. We’ve had a litany of these types in charge at our club down the years, and most of them have been able to find some base level of positive communication with the supporters, whether they were ultimately successful here or not.
He’s only been here a month or so and I’ve already found myself actively avoiding his interviews and press conferences before and after games... so yeah. I get it. He’s not like a Big Sam, or Peter Reid - he’s a southern bloke who sounds a bit robotic, and I think that rankles with some supporters, particularly when the fella he replaced was so relatable and affable, even when we didn’t necessarily agree with what he was saying.
But, the sheer level of hatred towards Beale that I’m seeing and reading makes me feel like I’m missing something; like he’s done something far more sinister than take the Sunderland job, and I’m simply not aware of it.
I’ve actually seen some Sunderland fans tweet that they hope Stoke score early on Saturday just so the atmosphere towards Beale is more vile as a result.
I mean... really? I’ve disliked some managers and members of our football team in the past to the point where I wished that they’d just piss off, but even at our lowest ebb, I don’t think I’ve ever heard people say that about the bloke in charge... and he’s been here a month.
I’ve seen photoshops of Beale with a noose around his neck. I’ve seen people wish death on him. I’ve seen people spreading clearly made-up stories about dressing room bust-ups. Regrettably, that’s all out there on social media for the rest of the world to see.
Erm... am I going mad? Is it just me seeing the pure hatred towards Michael Beale and wondering why I’m supposed to despise him with every fibre of my being?
Wishing death on him... hoping the team loses as people think it may further their chances of removing him... I mean, seriously?!
Whether Beale is the right man for the job is another thing entirely. I don’t think that he is and that appointing him was a big mistake, as the subsequent fallout has proven.
But much of the bad feeling around the club at the minute isn’t really Beale’s doing, yet as the most visible member of staff he’s taking the brunt of everyone’s frustrations as a result — although, it appears they’ve recognised this is becoming an issue and now other members of club staff have put themselves in front of the press and supporters in what I imagine is an attempt to diffuse the situation ahead of some important games.
The lack of signings to date is an issue, of course, but we know he’s not involved there to any great deal, and it was intriguing that they sent Kristjaan Speakman out after Beale’s press conference yesterday to sledge any questions away around recruitment, which I think was done for a number of reasons — one, to take some of the heat off Beale whose every word seems to be pulled apart at the minute, and two, to reinforce visually that there is a difference between the job Beale is doing and the job others on the footballing side of the club are doing with regards to signing players. Beale was asked about recruitment around the Hull game and said a bunch of stuff about what the team is lacking that just reignited the flames of an argument that has long brewed about the flexibility of the ‘model’ and whether we’re actually prepared to spend any money.
The discussion about the off-the-pitch carry-on around the Newcastle game won’t and shouldn’t go away, but that has contributed to this feeling of anger and apathy that doesn’t seem to be letting up. Other more historic issues around ticketing and merchandise have been chronically ignored by the club, but as things continue to bubble over, those frustrations reemerge and come to the fore.
It’s now spilling out onto the pitch and it’s affecting the players.
Beale, the man nobody really wanted, is stuck out there to face the music after games and to feel the frustrations of everyone, regardless of whether or not it was his doing.
Having read the minutes from the latest Supporters Collective meeting, I don’t think an awful lot of what was said is going to appease people. The same tensions that have existed for weeks will be evident when people take their seats in the stands on Saturday, and I’m hoping and praying we get an early goal and we can all relax a bit. Sadly, deep down I think I know how things are going to go if we don’t come flying out the blocks.
Beale’s part in all of this is relatively simple - he has to coach the team to win football matches, because if he doesn’t — and soon — he’ll be out on his ear.
Of the seven games he’s taken charge of to date, we’ve won just two of them, we’ve drawn one and we’ve lost four. Both of those wins — against Hull and Preston — were good wins against teams who are competing with us for a spot in the playoffs, but his defeats have been largely bad and damaging to morale, as was the scrappy draw away at relegation candidates Rotherham United where Beale’s tactics left a lot to be desired.
We were battered at home off Coventry (but I’ll give him a pass for that given he’d been through the door two minutes) but it was the worst possible start for him; his tactics against Newcastle were negative and shite, and losing in the manner we did was a body blow.
To then follow that up with a loss away at Ipswich (and I can live with that cos they’re a good team and for the most part we played well, but switched off stupidly for that second goal which still annoys me even now) and then a defeat at the Stadium of Light against a seriously depleted Hull City, making it three losses from four home games since Beale took charge, is a sign that not much has changed and that Beale hasn’t been able to rouse his players in the way you’d usually expect when a new man comes through the door.
The pressure is firmly on the guy to start showing some improvement and for his team to start showing they’re not just fighting for themselves, but fighting for him, the rest of the coaching staff and importantly, the supporters.
And that’s the crux of my point. Judge him fairly, but judge him on results. At the minute they aren’t great and if things don’t improve he’ll probably end up out of a job soon enough — but ultimately that’s what he should be judged on, and not how he looks or how he chooses to answer a question from the press. I don’t get the over-the-top personal insults, the wishing of death on him, the photoshops of him with a noose tied around his neck, the micro-analysis of every word he says, and people even hoping the team loses games.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s all uncalled for. I think we’re better than that.