It was a startlingly candid admission from a man in the midst of five days that could colour his career as a Rangers manager. “For this team, this game came far too soon, that’s what’s clear,” said Michael Beale.
The Englishman had just watched his side be dismantled in a wretched second half in Eindhoven. Their ambitions of successive Champions League group campaigns had not so much been stolen away as ripped violently from them.
As PSV relentlessly pounded at their defence, roared on by their astonishing support, it seemed there was little – a few fine Jack Butland saves aside – they could do to stop the onslaught.
The Dutch were, as Beale said, excellent. Rangers, however, were some way short of that. But why?
It has long been a curio of Scottish football that the biggest games of the season for the Old Firm come in the opening weeks. Champions League qualifiers, usually. Perhaps, like this term, an early derby.
Beale has spoken since the start of this calendar year about revamps and rebuilds. About getting ready for these very games. And yet Rangers were, by his own admission, not ready for PSV.
Nine players arrived this summer, but only three were given starts in Eindhoven – Butland, Jose Cifuentes and Cyriel Dessers. A further three – Sam Lammers, Danilo and Dujon Sterling – appeared from the bench.
“We are at the back end of August; these guys should be starting to show why they were brought to the team,” said Sportsond pundit and former Rangers forward Neil McCann.
“It’s probably the fault of the players that they’re not doing it yet, but Michael has to nail down a formation and say ‘right, these are the guys I’m choosing and this is how I’m going to play’.”
“A manager’s dream is a team that picks itself,” added McCann’s former Ibrox team-mate Steven Thompson. “Right now, Beale doesn’t know his best team and it’s going to take a while to work that out.
“It’s a lottery at the minute and it’s a problem he’s going to need to work out quickly because in the meantime, there’s massive, massive games coming up.”
None more pressing that Sunday’s visit of Celtic to Ibrox.
Beale spoke on Tuesday of this being a “hugely exciting week” but it is only natural that he might now cast his eyes forward to the weekend with a hint of concern.
That game in four days time will not be allowed to “come too soon” for this Rangers team.
What do the fans think?
Steven: What did Rangers fans think was going to happen? We have the same shocking defence as last year yet bring in half a dozen “attacking” players. We’re not fit for Champions League but after tonight, not sure we’re fit for Europa.”
Billy: Butland saved us from a really embarrassing scoreline. He was our only player who performed well.
Craig: Tonight was sobering. But would you rather watch a side probably being constantly well-beaten in the group stages of the Champions League or play decent football and go on a Europa League run well past Christmas?
Anon: Seemed like no belief, no fight, no real clue. And as for the strikers fluffing their lines time after time, what else can we expect when we bring in guys who score six, eight, 10 goals a season? Nowhere near good enough.
Anon: Completely outplayed again. Tried to hang on but PSV’s quality was clear to see. Horrendous defending at times. Europa League a much better fit this year. Having said that potential is there once new players start to gel.