To you realize how much Michael Beale has worked for this moment, it makes sense to go back to the beginning, to the church hall in Bromley where he coached youth futsal 20 years ago. The room was available for rent at £35 an hour but only three schoolboys, who paid £4 each, turned up for their first session, including 12-year-old Harry Watling, who this week joined Beale’s coaching staff at Queens Park Rangers. with an emphasis on set plays. “He was one of the first people in the hall,” Beale said with a smile. “When he was 16 or 17 I went full-time at Chelsea and he paid me £150 for football school – £150 for balls, goals and four extra-curricular clubs, so he got a good deal – and he still runs that business and has a staff of about 32.”
From Bromley to Blackburn, 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 at Aston Villa. Although living in the sticks, Beale loved his three years in Glasgow. “After the Covid lockdown, we won the league after not seeing people for months, then when I got out, things were very different. They sent me off at the Old Firm, which put my face more in the public domain, let’s say?” The 41-year-old smiles. He previously worked in the academies of Liverpool and Chelsea and spent six months as assistant to Rogerio Ceni at Sao Paulo. Beale turned down “five or six” managerial opportunities in England, Scotland and abroad, but in May He responded differently when QPR came calling. “Steven always knew we would get there,” Beale says. “After moving to Aston Villa, I felt over-prepared.”
Should Gerrard be a hard man to disappoint? “It was really difficult and it was more difficult because we weren’t face to face. I felt a little cheated. We were both on vacation. But he was great and made it so easy for me to say, ‘We’ve been great together, there’s a chance and maybe we’ll be together again in the future; you never know with the game. But we don’t owe each other anything, and if you think this is an opportunity for you and your family, go ahead and give it a shot. … It’s hard for me to respect anybody in football more than I respect Stephen. A lot of people involve employees, but they’re the main guy and they want to be front and center. Stephen wasn’t like that at all. I’m so glad he went and hired one of my best friends in Neil Critchley [as assistant]. I will support them. They are like my football brothers.”
Beale soaks up the company at QPR’s new Heston training base as he discusses everything from witnessing Trent Alexander-Arnold’s trajectory and learning the politics of the game in Brazil – “they won the election by bringing in Rogerio, but then everything we promised faded away. quick’ – to feel ready to ‘take on the world’ with Gerrard and sample his three-course menu for under-23s at the Liverpool version of Come Dine with Me.
“We wanted to do a bit of a walk around to make sure they were living well and the flats were clean and in a good area. We made it up that if you moved in, you had to have me and your assistant for two months and put a menu on the bulletin board. I remember the first time I met Jurgen Klopp. Jurgen, who I brought to Liverpool, was me, Pepijn Lijnders and Alex Inglethorpe on the balcony on Jurgen’s first day. [at Liverpool] … When he came up the stairs, he greeted me and said, “I can’t believe you’re still alive. I watched you eat that spaghetti bolognese!”
Beale watched Alexander-Arnold’s Liverpool U-14s side the day before he took over as Under-16 coach. “He was quite erratic, all arms and legs at the time, very thin, playing at centre-back but he would dribble into midfield, hit a cross and mishandle it the next minute. But it was genius.” Beale coached Alexander-Arnold as he progressed through the academy. “We had some very good wide players; Harry Wilson, Ryan Kent, Sergi Canos, Sheyi Ojo and they were all 18 months older than him. We would line them up and see when Trent quit. He was quite a stubborn so-and-so. There were times when he gave you that look,” Beale says with a gentle glance. “I’m not quite sure people comment on his defense … he’s really world class. If he was Spanish or German, we’d just be in awe of him, so it’s interesting that he’s in the England squad.
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 little centre-forward, Tariq Lamptey, Tino Livramento, who is at Brighton [now of Southampton] … so I’d like one or two to switch positions so they can all play together! People build them up to be this superhuman, but they’re 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 great to see them realize their dreams.”
Another busy day – Beale left Leamington, where he and his family live, at 5.30am – with a 3pm board meeting in the afternoon, but he’s happy to be back at work in the town he calls home. his sister and grandfather. Meanwhile, the typical manic pre-season schedule has little in the mood for special occasions, including daughter Alba’s third birthday. “We should have done his birthday yesterday, as all ‘bad dads’ should in football,” Beale said with a laugh. “You have to lie to your daughter about her birthday…we had a day at home yesterday. He 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 be told you’re off, but it’s also great to know you’re working harder than your peers. I get security and comfort from working people.”
Coaching abroad and following in the footsteps of his two idols, Terry Venables and Sir Bobby Robson, always appealed. He took 17 hours of Portuguese lessons over two weeks before flying to Sao Paulo. “I might be a broken coach now. He helped me in the villa and with him [Alfredo] at Morelos Rangers. It always sounds impressive to the secondary person you are not talking to. They think, “Wow, he speaks good Portuguese.” The reality is that it’s terrible, but I get that it looks cool. All those foreign managers coming in was a big sign for me at Chelsea. They were not just elite managers, they spoke three or four languages and were elite people. Now I would say to the young coaches that you have to improve yourself. You can’t look in from the outside and say, ‘I’m not given a chance.'”
This summer, QPR signed Kenneth Paal, whom Beale first met at a tournament in Turkey when he was 13, and Jake Clarke-Salter, who he worked with at Chelsea, plus Tyler Roberts and Taylor Richards, who grew up here. Shepherd’s Bush, on credit. “We have a lot of players between the ages of 22 and 26 and they’re all on a similar journey,” he says.
Keen to ensure his team maximized their potential, Beale divided his coaching staff so that each of them was responsible for different groups of players off the field. Gavin Ward takes care of the goalkeepers, having coached 12-year-old Billy at Charlton and spent 21 years at Arsenal before joining QPR in 2019, recruiting defenders Damian Matthews-Beale, who are in pursuit of Gerrard at Rangers. Chelsea – midfielders and Beale strikers. “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. ‘Well, here’s where you want to go: what do we do about it every day?’