Tis the season to be jolly but Michael Beale reckons there’s probably a better chance you’ll be feeling lousy if you’re a member of his first-team squad. Aberdeen may have been the side left feeling sick as Rangers snatched two stoppage-time goals to steal the points at Pittodrie in midweek.
But Beale revealed his squad were not exactly feeling hale and hearty themselves leading up to their showdown with Jim Goodwin’s side. While they got the job done, it’s not been enough to protect Beale’s players from a social media savaging as disgruntled punters picked through another less-than-convincing display.
But the manager revealed skipper James Tavernier has been suffering with illness this week yet chose to drive himself up the A90 and on to the squad hotel, only joining his team-mates on the bus trip to the stadium. Defenders Connor Goldson and Ben Davies were thrust back into action having only trained a couple of times while Glen Kamara, John Lundstram and Alfredo Morelos also played through the pain barrier.
Beale said: “I don’t want to use anything as an excuse but Tav did travel on his own. In his performance you saw parts of that but he seems fine now. Ben Davies is coming back but he’s had some issues coming back.
“Glen Kamara probably should have had an operation in the last couple of months.When he plays and trains it swells up and there’s a reaction so we have to be careful. John Lundstram had to take an injection to be on the bench on Tuesday night while Alfredo has had to play when he shouldn’t have done.
“But that’s not an excuse. These boys are paid well to be at a really big club. If they’re fit they go out there and play. If we let everyone with a niggle, a sore throat or runny nose not play we’d struggle to have an XI at the moment. That’s the situation at the moment and that’s why I would never question the mentality of the group.
“A lot of them played in the last two games when if everyone was available maybe they wouldn’t. They want to play but I need to protect them because it’s a fierce public that we have in Glasgow. I know that.
“But once we get out on the pitch all of those excuses are out the way. We either play well and win or don’t play well and don’t get the result. All of those excuses are removed. But there are players going out there who, if we had more players available, maybe wouldn’t.”
Morelos’ fitness levels have been in constant focus since former boss Gio van Bronckhorst let slip with his frustrations earlier this season. But Beale has no concerns about the striker pulling his weight. He said: “When Alfredo is at it there’s not a lot of difference to how he looks on the eye. He’s a certain physical shape. When he was scoring goals to beat Porto and teams like that he looked how he looked. That’s him.
“I just think he’s been out of rhythm because he had a long-term injury at the back end of last season that trailed into this season. He’s been in and out of the team and at the moment he’s probably one of those playing through the pain barrier for the team. I’m never going to question his mentality.
“There are a lot of things maybe you could question that young boy for – and he has been questioned for – but certainly not the commitment I see day in and day out. In terms of is he in-tune, is he here fully and trying to play at the maximum he can play at at the moment, I think he is. Whether he’s in form at the moment, that’s for everyone else’s opinion.
“I’ve got to manage his injury. If everybody came out we wouldn’t have enough players to play. At the moment results are important for the club. It’s a busy schedule. So we’ve all got to bite down on the gumshield and go.”
Beale took the unusual step of revealing at his pre-match press conference he’s planning five changes to the XI that takes on Ross County. He said: “There’s definitely not a commitment issue around here. I don’t know how many teams in any league in the world that could be without five senior centre-backs and two left-backs and have to play the teams that have historically been the third and four best teams in the league. We’ve just done that and won both games.”