Chris Sutton has done his best to put the pressure back on Michael Beale as the Rangers boss takes his side to Parkhead to face Celtic, and accused him of disrespect towards opposite number Ange Postecoglou.
While paying the backhanded compliment of suggesting that the Light Blues will be “dangerous” for the latest Old Firm derby because they have nothing to lose, the ex-Hoops striker made a number of pointed references to the 2-1 defeat in the Viaplay Cup final on 26 February, where he says Rangers “looked scared” until the game was beyond them.
The pundit and the Ibrox boss had been engaged in a back and forth in the build up to the last meeting, and Sutton has characteristically not missed his chance to remind Beale how it turned out, claiming: “In some ways, they set themselves up for that fall. They had talked the talk beforehand, but, ultimately, they didn’t walk the walk.”
In his column for the Daily Record on derby day morning (8 April) Sutton said: “You look back at all the talk before that League Cup Final and the lucky manager stuff and a whole lot else and he left Hampden with his tail between his legs as his team simply did not turn up until the green and white ribbons were already being tied to the silver.
“I don’t know if the lucky stuff was just an attempt to win over some of the Rangers supporters, but I think it was a massive mistake and I think Beale would now admit it was a mistake as well.
“It was disrespectful to a manager who has a track record over more than 25 years. If he has learned from that, then all well and good.
“More importantly, he needs to learn from Hampden. I think that defeat really hurt him and Rangers”.
Talking on the pitch
Sutton will of course never miss his chance to get in a few remarks but Beale gave him the opportunity to do so by ramping up the pressure on himself ahead of the League Cup final and then not delivering.
He needs to change that at Celtic Park on Easter weekend because if he doesn’t the former Blackburn and Chelsea striker laughing it up will be the least of his worries.
The Rangers manager was unlucky not to win an Old Firm derby in his first attempt on 2 January because his side were the better team that day and only a late Kyogo Furuhashi equaliser shared the points.
But it was a significant backward step at Hampden two months later, so while the pressure of the title race may effectively be off, the pressure of finally landing a notable blow on his main rivals has only grown for Beale.
His team selection will be key as the midfield proved to be where the cup final was lost, with new signings Todd Cantwell and Nico Raskin left out of the starting line up, but both are expected to start this one after the Belgian was revealed to be fit.
Disrespect of Postecoglou is one thing, but mind games between managers at least may have the desired effect of destabilising a rival.
There is more chance of success there than getting caught up with a pundit who loves nothing more than a wind-up.
Either way, the Ibrox boss certainly needs a result to do the talking first and the short trip to Parkhead would be a good place to start.