TTo understand how long Michael Beale has been working towards this moment, it is wise to go back to the beginning, to the church hall in Bromley where he was coaching young futsal people 20 years ago. The room cost £35 an hour to hire but only three schoolboys, who each paid £4, turned up to his first session, including 12-year-old Harry Watling, who went the week here’s Beale’s coaching staff at Queens Park Rangers in charge. with a focus on set plays. “He was one of the first people to walk into that hall,” Beale says with a smile. “When he was 16 or 17, I went full-time at Chelsea and he paid me £150 for the soccer school – the balls, the goals, and four after-school clubs for £150, so he got a good deal – and it. he still runs that business now with about 32 staff.”
From Bromley to Blackburn, where Beale will take charge of his first game as a first-team manager on Saturday after working as Steven Gerrard’s assistant at Rangers and, more recently, Aston Villa. Beale loved his three years in Glasgow, even though he lived out in the sticks. “After the Covid lockdown, after not seeing people for months, we won the league, and then when I went out things were much different. I was sent out in the Old Firm which put my face more in the public eye, shall we say?” The 41-year-old grins. Before that, he worked in the academies at Liverpool and Chelsea, and spent six months as Rogério Ceni’s assistant at São Paulo. Beale turned down “five or six” managerial opportunities in England, Scotland and abroad but had a different response when the call came from QPR in May. “Steven always knew we would make it that day,” says Beale. “After moving to Aston Villa, I felt too ready.”
Gerrard must be a tough guy to disappoint? “It was very difficult and it was more difficult because we were not face to face. I felt like I was cheating a little. We were both away on holiday. But it was great and it made it much easier for me to say: ‘We’re great together, there’s a chance and maybe we’ll get back together in the future; you never know with the game. But we owe each other nothing and if you feel this is the opportunity for you and your family then go and give it a try.’ … It’s hard for me to respect someone in football more than I respect Steven. A lot of people bring in a team but they are the main guy and want to be front and center of everything. Steven was not like that at all. I’m glad he’s gone and one of my best friends recruited Neil Critchley [as assistant]. I will support them. They are like my football brothers.”
Beale has been taking part at Heston’s new QPR training base, discussing everything from seeing Trent Alexander-Arnold’s trajectory and learning the politics of the game in Brazil – “they won the election by bringing in Rogério but then everything went promise us obsolete. quickly” – feeling ready to “take over the world” with Gerrard, and sample a three-course menu courtesy of his under-23s in Liverpool’s version of Come Dine with Me.
“We wanted to go around and do a little snoop to make sure they were living OK and the apartments were clean and in a good area. We made this thing up, if you moved out, you had to have me and a round of help within two months, and you had to put a menu on the bulletin board. I remember the first time I met Jürgen Klopp. It was Jürgen, me, Pepijn Lijnders, who recruited me to Liverpool, and Alex Inglethorpe on the balcony on Jürgen’s first day [at Liverpool] … When I came upstairs, he greeted me and was like: ‘I can’t believe you’re still alive. I watched you eat that spaghetti bolognese!’”
Beale watched Alexander-Arnold’s Liverpool Under-14s team the day before he took over as under-16 coach. “He was quite awkward, all hands and feet at the time, very skinny, playing at centre-back, but he would dribble into the middle of the field, hit a ball across the field and the next moment miscontrol it. But that was the genius.” Beale coached Alexander-Arnold as he progressed through the academy. “We had very good wide players; Harry Wilson, Ryan Kent, Sergi Canos, Sheyi Ojo, and they were all 18 months older than him. We want to line them up and we want to see when Trent retired. He was quite Tenacious so-and-so. There were times he would give you that look,” says Beale, with a soft glare. “I’m not quite sure about the people giving feedback on his defense … he’s really first class. If he was Spanish or German, we’d be laughing at him, so it’s interesting that he’s in and out of the England team.”
Beale, who coached Declan Rice, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham at Chelsea, faces a conflict of interest when it comes to England and their rich reserves of right-backs. “I worked with Reece James, he was [initially] a small forward, Tariq Lamptey is down at Brighton, Tino Livramento [now of Southampton] …so I want one or two people to move so they can all play together! People raise them to be superhumans, but they are not. They’re just young boys or girls and they go through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of insecurities, so it’s nice to see them fulfill their dreams.”
Another busy day – Beale left Leamington, where he and his family are based, at 5.30am – he’ll come in this afternoon, a 3pm board meeting on the horizon, but he’s happy to be back working in the city on his he brings home, closer to her. his sister and grandparents. At the same time, a normally manic pre-season schedule has little emotion for special occasions, including his daughter Alba’s third birthday. “We had to celebrate her birthday yesterday, as all ‘bad dads’ in football have to,” says Beale, laughing. “You have to lie to her about your daughter’s birthday … we had the day together at home yesterday. She helps me a lot. The boys still want to talk to me about football – they’re eight and 10 – but my daughter just wants daddy time. It’s great to say you go away but it’s also nice to know you’re out working with your colleagues. I take safety and comfort from outsiders.”
It was always intended to train abroad and follow in the footsteps of two of his idols, Terry Venables and Sir Bobby Robson. He crammed in 17 hours of Portuguese lessons in two weeks before flying to São Paulo. “I can probably break into coaching now. He helped me at Villa and with [Alfredo] More at Rangers. It always sounds great to the second person you’re not talking to. They think: ‘Wow, he speaks good Portuguese.’ The reality is that it’s terrible, but I understand that it looks cool. It was a big tip for me at Chelsea when all those foreign managers came in. Not only were they elite managers but they spoke three or four languages and they were elite. What I would say to young coaches now is that you have to train yourself more. You can’t be looking in from the outside and saying: ‘I’m not given opportunities.’”
This summer QPR signed Kenneth Paal, who Beale came across at a tournament in Turkey when the left-back was 13, and Jake Clarke-Salter, who he worked with at Chelsea, plus Tyler Roberts and Taylor Richards, who grew up in Bush Shepherd, on loan. “We have a lot of players between 22-26 and they are all on a similar journey,” he says.
Looking to ensure his squad maximizes their potential, Beale has split his coaching staff so that each of them is responsible for different groups of players off the pitch. The backs are looked after by Gavin Ward, Neil Banfield – who coached 12-year-old Beale at Charlton and spent 21 years at Arsenal before joining QPR in 2019 after scouting Gerrard at Rangers – the defenders, Damian Matthew – who recruited Beale to Chelsea – the midfielders and Beale the forwards. “Their job is to be like a lieutenant, go around and have breakfast or lunch with these players, find out where they are in their journey because everyone has hopes and dreams. ‘Okay, that’s where you want to go: what are we doing every day?’”