Michael Beale began his coaching career at Bromley Church Hall. With coats and bags pushed to the side of the room, he began to coach futsal to youngsters in the London venue. Despite these relatively humble surroundings, this was a coach with limitless ambitions which have carried him all the way into his first managerial job with Queens Park Rangers.
“I had a long-term dream to be a manager or a head coach so I have fulfilled that by coming into this role,” he tells The Sportsman in one of his first appointments as QPR manager. “But I had an anchor in that, which was to be a youth team coach at a good club. I'm different now in terms of not having so many aims but more wanting to work in an environment that excites me and helps me jump out of bed in the morning. I've been lucky to this point to have that in the clubs I have worked at, and I feel that excitement today now I am finally working as a head coach here at QPR.”
His journey has taken him to Chelsea, Liverpool, São Paulo, Glasgow and Birmingham and he has coached some of the finest players in world football. In an open and honest interview with The Sportsman, he takes us through his whirlwind career so far, starting with Chelsea.
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“I worked with some fantastic players and some fantastic staff that have gone on to do well,” the 41-year-old explains. “It was a real privilege to be inside the club at the time because things drip-fed down, which was amazing. I think the time at Chelsea was huge. The quote that I made - ‘At Chelsea, I felt we had the best players so we all won. Every coach won. I’d started asking myself were we winning, or were the players winning for us?’ - I wouldn't want to be misconstrued. It was a pleasure to work there with the players that we had.
“But I needed to challenge myself again, so I wasn't necessarily looking for grass that was greener, just grass that was cut a little bit differently, and that was certainly the case moving to Liverpool.”
Having worked with the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and new QPR signing Jake Clarke-Salter in Chelsea’s youth team, moving to Liverpool was a big leap for the young coach, who has shown time and time again during his career that he isn’t afraid to take risks.
“Firstly Liverpool was a dream football club to work for, everything that it stands for, the history, the people, the city, the culture, I loved every minute,” he explains. “It was everything that I was looking for when I went in. I learnt loads, Brendan Rodgers was the first head coach that was there, a familiar face from Chelsea as well, and then Jurgen came in and I learnt loads from him just in terms of the way he saw football compared to the club where it was at the time. In terms of the development of young players being a little bit later and not being so judgemental on a player at 18 or 19 - it is much more towards 22, 23.
“I thought that was a breath of fresh air for a foreign coach coming into England saying to us 'look, give your young players a little bit more time'. I also think he has gone in with a very clear vision of the way that he wants to work and he has implemented that over six or seven years with huge success, so to see that and see the people at Liverpool get that success has been fantastic to be honest. It is a city very close to my heart because I had my middle child there as well. I have got three children and they are all born in different places so my wife hates the decisions that I have made in my career and it has not got any easier for her to be honest!”
One man tipped for the top from a young age at Liverpool was Trent Alexander-Arnold. The leading light from the Reds’ academy is now a superstar in the first team, and Beale, with his eye for talent, predicted big things for the precocious young talent.
“I saw him on the very first weekend I started at the club in 2012,” he says, with a smile on his face. “He was playing against Manchester United as a centre-back in the under-14s. Trent was capable of magic moments which are no surprise now because we see it on a regular basis in the Premier League and the Champions League, but back then this young wiry boy was just arms and legs. But he could do something absolutely outrageously good. In other moments, there was erratic behaviour like you expect kids to have at that age.
“I made a sportsman's bet with the education welfare officer at the time that I felt Trent would make the first team. It was just a hunch, he looked different to the other players I was watching that day through the age groups, and he was a person that I was really privileged to work quite closely with before he became a professional, and his family network around him have been hugely supportive of him. His mum Dianne, she is a diamond, she is a person that I really like. I remember when I was leaving Liverpool she came to the training ground with a big bag full of gifts for me. It is a family that I'm so pleased for, not just the boy, the whole family.”
After five years at Liverpool, Beale took another risk at the age of 36. One that even Jurgen Klopp said he would not do. He moved to Brazil to work as the assistant manager of Sao Paulo - a giant in South America.
“I think I've been quite good at realising when I need another challenge or when I need to push myself to the next level or make a big jump and make the next step in my career. The one to Sao Paulo was a huge one. It was obviously a bit different, I remember Jurgen saying he wouldn't do it - but each to their own. I needed it to get to the next stage. I needed to answer a few questions, I needed to challenge myself with the language and the culture - working at first team level, working with an icon like Rogerio Ceni. It was an amazing experience, I would do it again in the future if the opportunity came because I really enjoyed myself.
“Brazilian people on the whole are so family-oriented and are such good people. I saw things in terms of development of young players at the academy at Sao Paulo and just in South American football in general that the other people in Europe don't get to see. So I feel hugely privileged to have had that opportunity which is very rare for an English coach.”
He returned from a short stint in Brazil to Liverpool, where a certain Steven Gerrard was now in charge of the under-18s. Months later, the pair, along with Gary McAllister were off to Rangers, where they went undefeated to deny Celtic a 10th league title in a row. From there, he followed Gerrard to Aston Villa, before taking the plunge into management with QPR.
“I'm a big fan of certain coaches,” he says, reflecting on his inspirations across football. “I really like Carlo Ancelotti. I wasn't close to him in my time at Chelsea because I was just coaching the youth team but I just really liked him. He came and did a course with us once and I was blown away by it and I just like him as a person. He goes into clubs and he leaves them in a better place. Some managers go into a club and when they leave there is chaos and the club is in trauma, but with Carlo he goes to a club and he tends to leave it a better place. He has managed around the world in different languages and he is so calm and he makes it about the players and that is what I believe in.
“I think Jurgen has had a big influence, Steven Gerrard has had a huge influence on me, he is a real quality human being. He has got a lot of values as a person that I really respect. It is hard for me to respect someone more than I respect Steven in terms of a man. The time that we spent together along with Gary McAllister and the rest of the staff was fantastic. I feel like Steven is like a football brother.
“It is never the right moment for that relationship to end but when I started out in football I had some things that I wanted to achieve, it was important that I remembered that and I got on to starting to do that. But at the same time it had to be the right opportunity and I think when I spoke to Steven he was very appreciative of the fact that I felt this was the right one and he didn't stand in my way, he was very good with me.”
So, having coached some England internationals, Champions League winners and world-class footballers, out of all the players who he has worked with, who would he bring to QPR in a fantasy world?
“That's a really difficult question. I'm going to avoid all of my ex-football sons like Mason Mount or Declan Rice or Trent. I'm going to talk to you about Philippe Coutinho because Coutinho came to Aston Villa in January and he is the most humble young man I have met, yet he has achieved so much. He is a big lesson for everybody in football in terms of whatever you have achieved, the way that you carry yourself, day in and day out. I'm massive on humility, I look at players, especially young players, and I wait for the moment where they might change.
“I'm always on at young players about humility, how you are as a person. With footballers, sometimes they can get carried away that they are a footballer. No, you are a person that plays football. It is important that you remain humble and you show humility. Coutinho does that and he is also the best player. Which is just the perfect thing. So if there was one player I could bring here to QPR, as much for his football, but also for the way that he carries himself, it would be Phil Coutinho.
"I just think he is the most fantastic young man who is just so aware of who he is. He is so shy, but he is so aware of being a good person and he works hard. He is on that training pitch every minute of every day. Sometimes you can bring a player into a football club where the other young players will look up to them. He is an example to them and he is a shining example for the rest of the players at Villa. They are in good shape, they've got a really good coaching staff and took another one of my football friends in to replace me in Neil Critchley and I will be supporting them this season from afar for sure.”
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