Scottish football is a small place. Occasionally a dark place.
I once described it thus;
“(A) tiny town where everyone knows everyone else intimately. And the wife beaters sit and drink with the preachers, and the fraudsters sit down with the bank managers, and the guy who murdered his former wife sits and sups beer with the school mistress, and the barman keeps on pouring for the not-yet-acknowledged alcoholics and tells them they earned a drink after a long hard day, and the wheel keeps on turning because although everybody knows, nobody ever says outright what it is that they know and although nothing is a secret everyone acts as though there are no secrets to tell. A town where the word ‘community’ means that everyone lives in blissful ignorance, although nobody is ignorant of anything. A town where if you never acknowledge it, maybe it didn’t happen at all.”
You see that everywhere in the coverage of Beale today, as he prepares to sign on the dotted line and take up the Ibrox hot-seat, which more and more resembles an electric chair.
Nobody wants to acknowledge that the “shortlist” didn’t exist, that the “search” never took place or that what did happen was as close to tapping as you’ll ever get and that it started weeks ago, whilst Van Bronckhorst was still at least nominally secure.
The thing about Scottish football being a small town is that the smart people know who the dumb people are. If you want to start a rumour you know just who to confide in and swear to secrecy.
Tell the right person and you know that word will spread through the town like a virulent strain of the flu. Think of Keith Jackson that way, a man so dense that he doesn’t recognise when he’s on a using.
He was given one last night, and proudly wrote about it.
Jackson’s “exclusive” was that Beale was flying in today with demands. That foremost amongst them he wanted assurances about the January window. But what assurances can Ibrox offer? Anything they give him now is money they can’t provide for him in the summer. And what demands is he in a position to make at the moment anyway?
The club and the manager have already made two enormous errors in the way they’ve perpetrated their little scam.
The first was in how public the Aberdeen game invite was, and how Beale himself used it to visit a famous Ibrox fan pub and present himself as the coming hero. That was supposed to build the initial bridge to the appointment. Instead it just looks devious and cold and the actions of someone utterly selfish, and made it clear to QPR what went on.
The second error wasn’t really their fault, but they compounded it. Or rather, Beale did.
It was the offer from Wolves and how he chose to respond to it.
I believe he knew he was on the way to Ibrox. But this alleged tactical genius actually went for an interview at Wolves to hide that fact, and then used the words “integrity” and “loyalty” in turning them down. Ibrox should have started looking for someone else right there and then. But they had settled on their man.
From the moment Beale gave that interview, he and Ibrox were locked in the death grip. He looks like a complete snake now, and if he really did come to Ibrox with a list of “demands” today they would be well justified in calling his bluff and rejecting them.
Because what exactly is he going to do at this point? Head back to London, to a club and fans who know exactly what he did here and what he’s been up to? He’s got no road back there and he knows it.
And Ibrox’s board knows it as well, which is why they would never agree to any demands he might have to make.
Yet, for all that, they wouldn’t be entirely safe either, because if he did decide to chance his arm by rejecting them I genuinely don’t believe that they have a Plan B. They’ve spent the past week working on Beale and pushing random names into the media … but no actual search beyond White City took place and they wouldn’t know where to start.
Jackson was fed that line about guarantees and demands by the very board he is excoriating over the nature of the appointment. The board know this isn’t universally popular and they know there’s a perception of Beale as a yes man, and a stooge. But if he’s coming with demands and the board is meeting those demands, then a few more fans can be won over.
What’s truly unbelievable here is that this isn’t, as many Ibrox fans surmise, a panicked appointment. They’ve actually been working on this for a while. This was the rational decision they arrived at, with plenty of time to think it over. To tap up a manager who had less than half a season’s experience in the dugout.
But the shady, slapdash way they’ve gone about it has trapped them, and him, in a pact which neither can easily get out of if something unforeseen forced them to reconsider. It’s perfectly obvious what’s been going on here.
Yet some in our media prefer the lie. They prefer to be played for fools, and by people so stupid they weren’t even smart enough to do their tapping in private. These Peepul deserve each other.