Daily Record

Beale can have last graft

Nic says new boss can work it out

- By DAVID MCCARTHY

JIMMY NICHOLL was the man who handed over the reins at Rangers to Steven Gerrard at the end of a turbulent, traumatic season in May 2018.

The Northern Irishman took over on a temporary basis from Graeme Murty in the aftermath of a 5-0 hammering from Celtic and with three games left of a season that still hadn’t secured European football.

Nicholl got them there with a third-placed finish after beating Kilmarnock and drawing with Aberdeen – who finished above them – before a classic 5-5 draw with Hibs at Easter Road kept them three points ahead of the Edinburgh outfit.

With the job done, Nicholl – who had played for and captained Rangers in the 80s – was happy to walk away to leave the much-needed rebuild to Liverpool icon Gerrard and his coaching guru Michael Beale.

Four years on and Rangers are at another crossroads. And this time, having taken a career detour away from Ibrox via Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers, Beale looks to be on his way back as the main man.

Gio van Bronckhors­t, who replaced Gerrard when he moved to Villa – taking Beale with him – has gone but Nicholl has no time for blame games.

Van Bronckhors­t broke his silence yesterday, citing ‘unique challenges and very difficult circumstan­ces to operate in’.

And although he didn’t expand on what those were, Nicholl has plenty of sympathy for the sacked Dutchman, who left Gers nine points adrift of Celtic and out of Europe with statistica­lly the worst showing of any team in Champions League history.

There’s also plenty of players out of contract at the end of the season, so surgery is required and Nicholl hopes it’s as painless as possible.

But before then, the current assistant manager of the Northern Ireland national team is hoping to see more from the current group of players that it seems Beale is about to inherit and whose current attitude reminds him of the CELTIC team he took on in his playing days.

Nicholl said: “Thirty-five years ago, I was part of the Rangers team that won the league in 1986/87.

“Yet Celtic came back and won it the following season, ’87/88 in their centenary year. I remember talking to a member of staff at Celtic after they’d won it and I told him their team had the best pressing and put us under more pressure than any other team I’d come up against.

“Then look at the following season, ’88/89 when Rangers won it back. I spoke to the same guy and he told me, ‘It all changed because the players stopped working’. It was as simple as that. The same players who had won them the league the year before just stopped working as hard.

“Maybe that’s what’s happened at Ibrox. I don’t know.

“But apart from losing Joe Aribo and Calvin Bassey, it’s still the same squad of players who did really well last season.

“So, is there something in the background? I’m not criticisin­g the players but they’ve not been helped by losing some of the better ones and so far they just haven’t been able to do it.”

Nicholl doesn’t buy the theory that van Bronckhors­t’s men stopped playing for him. Not when he saw with his own eyes evidence to the contrary last term as most of them blazed their way to Seville.

He added: “If someone says the players weren’t responding to him and his staff, well I don’t know that. They were responding last season, though. I was at their European games and I saw it with my own eyes.

“You need the players to come out and explain how they feel. But any time they spoke, they said they were behind the boss.

“If you go and have a season like Gio had last year, getting to the Europa final and winning the

Cup, then still getting the sack, where does the stability come from after that?

“It’s different if the results aren’t coming and the players aren’t responding to one manager after the next, but that’s not what I see.

“I’ve been to the European games over the last couple of years and the atmosphere is crazy. The fans are behind the players but obviously with the quality of opposition this season it was really tough.

“How quickly it changes in football. From the atmosphere and the good feeling about the club last year to this season. But

you can’t afford to lose players like Aribo, Bassey and Nathan Patterson and expect the quality of the team to remain the same.

“That’s what’s happened. Those players have gone and they haven’t been replaced.

“And Gio didn’t once use injuries as an excuse. But look at the number he had out.

“Tom Lawrence had been doing well and he lost him. Then losing Connor Goldson, who is such an influence, was massive.

“But there were so many injured, so I do feel some sympathy for him.”

He’s gone now and Rangers are expected to announce the return of Beale imminently. As a fan, Nicholl hopes it’s the right move for the club.

He added: “Michael has done some of seminars I’ve been at.

“I like the way he goes about his business and the proof is in the pudding with the work he did with Gerrard at Rangers first time around.

“If it’s him, I hope he does well there.

“I still enjoy going to watch Rangers, although it’s mostly midweek games I see as I spend most Saturdays following the Northern Ireland players who play in Scottish football.”

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 ?? ?? MiDDle MaN Nicholl took over from Murty’s shambles in 2018 and was able to secure European football before teeing up Gerrard and Beale’s Rangers revolution
MiDDle MaN Nicholl took over from Murty’s shambles in 2018 and was able to secure European football before teeing up Gerrard and Beale’s Rangers revolution
 ?? ?? BOLD BLUE SCRAPS FOR NICHOLL 1989 TITLE
BOLD BLUE SCRAPS FOR NICHOLL 1989 TITLE

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