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  • By Yann Tear at Ashton Gate

Ghost of Mick Beale haunts Championship as QPR and Millwall's search for manager bounce

Ashton Gate on Saturday - where crowd-watchers looked for signs of former QPR manager Mick Beale

Those schooled in the art of spotting key figures in the crowd at football matches did not apparently identify the presence of Michael Beale at Ashton Gate at the weekend. But by all accounts, he was expected to be around as one of the front-runners for the job at Sunderland, where the Wearsiders were playing.

On the face of it, the 1-0 defeat overseen by caretaker manager Mike Dodds implied that the Black Cats' need is urgent, even if recent results have been okay. QPR fans might well be thinking when it comes to their former boss Beale: "Be careful what you wish for."

Rangers will never forgive Beale for walking out on them.

It seemed strange for the Wearsiders to sack Tony Mowbray as boss when the club were among the play-off pack and doing pretty well, by all acoounts. But we have reached the part of the season when clubs get twitchy and they start yearning for a manager bounce to ignite (or save) a campaign they begin to feel is not quite going according to plan.

Rangers know all about that - and for them it seems to have paid off. From freefall under Gareth Ainsworth, the club now seems to have rediscovered a sense of purpose and optimism under Marti Cifuentes.

Sure, the weekend loss at Sheffield Wednesday was not in that script -though they yoo are experiencing a new-manager bounce - nor was the disappointing 0-0 draw against a 10-man Plymouth Argyle at Loftus Road in midweek. But there has been an undeniable revival of hope and mood in W12 under the Spaniard.

The R's are only two points off safety after the latest round of matches, Cifuentes' message being that if they "keep on paddling" they can soon find sanctuary higher up the league table.

Compare that to the ditching of Gary Rowett at Millwall. Far from sparking a bounce, Joe Edwards' arrival has seen a slump in fortunes to such an extent that they sit only two places and two points above Rangers now and a clash between the two teams on Boxing Day could carry quite a bit of significance.

The Lions were hit by a late equaliser at home to Sunderland in a match they recently drew and an even later equaliser by Huddersfield at the Den on Saturday. They have gone six without a win since a false-dawn 4-0 victory at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday on November 11.

Millwall fans had become unhappy with the playing style under Rowett, even if he had them punching above their weight and challenging for the top six in recent seasons. Be careful what you wish for.

If Beale does take up the Sunderland post - where he might hope to banish the blot on his CV that was a recent unsuccessful sojourn at Glasgow Rangers - he will inherit a club expecting that extra bounce, even if they weren't doing badly under Mowbray.

Weekend opponents Bristol City thought the same when dispatching Nigel Pearson recently and plumping for Liam Manning on the basis of the new young manager's few good months at Oxford United.

Mid-table City edged a nervy win, thanks to a first-half penalty, but that was only his second win since taking charge for the first time last month in the 0-0 draw with QPR in west London. They had gone four without a win and badly needed the points to ward off early grumblings about the gamble to axe Pearson in favour of a new broom.

"With a new group, you don't always know what you're going to get," Manning admitted after the game, acknowledging so much of all this chopping and changing is a lottery.

In the current round of managerial merry-go-rounds, Ashton Gate was one of several locations in the coming weeks where the decision to switch boats mid-stream comes under the microscope.

There will be another one when Cifentes and Edwards go head-to-head in that post-Christmas clash in the latest battle of the manager bounce - assuming the clubs have not changed head coaches again in the mean time.


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