Rangers ‘B’ team trio earn first-team promotion as Michael Beale outlines plans to utilise Ibrox academy
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The former QPR boss has inherited a squad ravished with injuries at present and with some of his international players like Borna Barisic granted extra time off due to his World Cup involvement with Croatia, it leaves the Englishman short of numbers ahead of the Scottish Premiership resuming on December 15.
As a result, prolific striker Zak Lovelace, midfielder Charlie McCann and right-back Adam Devine have all been put through their paces by Beale and his new management team at the Gers training base at Auchenhowie over the past 48 hours.
Teenage centre-back Leon King also remains a key member of the first-team squad after playing a major role in recent months under previous boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst due to a shortage of defensive options.
Beale is eager to utilise the Gers academy set-up as often as possible, with 16-year-old Lovelace in particular, impressing in the UEFA Youth League and the Lowland League since joining from Millwall in the summer.
19-year-old Devine is currently viewed as the long-term replacement for captain James Tavernier, while ex-Manchester United prospect McCann has already made a handful of first-team appearances under Van Bronckhorst.
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports, Beale said: “I think the injuries have played a massive part (this season). After ending on such a high last season, obviously winning the Scottish Cup straight after the Europa League final maybe had an impact on one or two (players).
“The injuries have been the biggest thing I’ve noticed. They’ve had a big impact in terms of consistency on the pitch and every club needs their best players fit more often than not. I think that led to a situation where maybe the results went the wrong way. Gio is an excellent professional, I think he comes across so well and is a man of high-class. There was a tinge of sadness (at his dismissal) and then obviously the opportunity arose for me to come back.
“That area (injuries) needs to clean up, that’s fair to say. We cannot use it as an excuse moving forward, that’s really important. We need to get those players fit, fighting and working hard day in, day out to get back. I have to create an identity that the fans are really excited about and that starts with us from inside, the players being energised by it.
“I need to drive the standards and have to be myself, regardless to who the last two managers were. I thought Steven (Gerrard) did an incredible job during the time I was here, he took the club forward from where it started and Gio carried that on. Now I need to add my own stamp with my staff, and it is a management team as well, not just myself.
“We’ll be working fast every single day. We need to grow and work hard right now. The boys are all aware of that and we’ve started that over the last two days. It’s fair to say it is slightly different to the work they’ve previously been doing and it’s even different to the work we did here when Steven was the manager.
“We all worked really well together but I’ve got some slight, subtle changes to that and obviously it will be different to the last 60-odd games with Gio. Even though I’m coming back in and already know the majority of the players, we have to go through that all again and build this team under my ideas.
“I wasn’t that close to the players, to be honest. I was never anyone’s friend, I was always a bit of a disciplinarian out on the training pitch. That was my job, to take training and drive standards. I don’t feel that’s an issue. We lived an unbelievable experience together and I know, the players know that we can re-create and build something strong and special again.”
Meanwhile, Rangers will no longer face English Championship outfit Swansea City in a behind closed door game this weekend.
The Light Blues were scheduled to play Russell Martin’s side at the club’s training centre on Saturday before they host Bundesliga giants Bayer Leverkusen at Ibrox in front of fans on December 10 ahead of their return to domestic action five days later.
However, the match has now been cancelled after fellow Premiership side Dundee United announced they would be facing the Swans in a mid-season friendly at Tannadice on December 3.