Sports FOOTBALL Michael Beal Steven Gerrard of QPR is like a...

Michael Beal Steven Gerrard of QPR is like a football brother to me


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TTo understand how long Michael Beal has been working on this moment, it makes sense to go back to the beginning, to the church hall in Bromley, where he coached the youth in futsal 20 years ago. The room rent cost £35 an hour, but only three students, each paying £4, showed up for his first class, including 12-year-old Harry Watling, who joined Beal’s coaching staff at Queen’s this week. Park Rangers. with an emphasis on standard pieces.

“He was one of the first people to enter this room,” Beal smiles. “When he was 16 or 17 I went to Chelsea full time and he paid me £150 for a football school – balls, goals and four extracurricular clubs for £150 so he got a good deal – and he still runs the business today and has about 32 employees.”

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From Bromley to Blackburn, where on Saturday Beal will take charge of his first game as first-team manager since assistant to Steven Gerrard at Rangers and most recently at Aston Villa. Beal loved his three years in Glasgow, even though he lived in the middle of nowhere. “After the Covid lockdown, after we didn’t see people for months, we won the league and then when I left it was completely different. I was sent to the Old Firm, which made my face more public, shall we say? The 41-year-old smiles.

Prior to that, he worked at the academies of Liverpool and Chelsea, and also worked as an assistant to Rogerio Ceni at Sao Paulo for six months. Beal turned down “five or six” managerial opportunities in England, Scotland and overseas, but gave a different answer when a call came in from QPR in May. “Stephen always knew we would live to see this day,” Beal says. “After moving to Aston Villa, I felt too ready.”

Gerrard must be hard to disappoint? “It was really hard and it was even harder because we weren’t face to face. I felt like I was cheating a little. We were both on vacation. But he was great and made it easy for me by saying: “We had a great time together, there is an opportunity, and maybe in the future we will be together again; you never know with the game. But we don’t owe each other anything, and if you feel like this is an opportunity for you and your family, then go ahead and try it.”

“It’s hard for me to respect anyone in football more than I respect Steven. Many people hire employees, but they are in charge and want to be at the center of everything.

“Stephen was not like that at all. I’m glad he went out and recruited one of my best friends in Neil Critchley. [as assistant]. I will support them. They are like my football brothers.”

Beal takes over the company at QPR’s new training facility in Heston, discussing everything from watching Trent Alexander-Arnold’s trajectory to learning about the politics of the game in Brazil: “They won the election by inviting Rogerio, but then everything we were promised disappeared very quickly” – to the feeling of being ready to “conquer the world” with Gerrard and tasting the three-course menu courtesy of his under-23s at the Liverpool version of Come Dine with Me.

“We wanted to go around and spy a bit to make sure they were doing well and that the apartments were clean and in a good area. We came up with the idea that if you moved out, within two months you would have to invite me and an assistant, and you would have to post the menu on the bulletin board. I remember the first time I met Jurgen Klopp. It was Jürgen, me, Pepijn Linders, whom I recruited to Liverpool, and Alex Inglethorpe on the balcony on Jurgen’s first day. [at Liverpool] … When I went up the stairs, he greeted me and said, “I can’t believe you’re still alive. I watched you eat spaghetti bolognese!”

Michael Beal (second from right) with Jurgen Klopp (left) a day after the German was introduced as Liverpool manager in October 2015. Photo: Nick Taylor/Liverpool/Getty Images

Beal watched the Liverpool under-14 team with Alexander-Arnold the day before he took over as under-16 coach. “At that time he was quite unbalanced, all arms and legs, very thin, played in the position of a central defender, but he dribbled the ball into midfield, hit the ball across the field, and the next minute he lost control of it. But that was genius.”

Beal coached Alexander-Arnold as he progressed through the academy. “We had very good wing players; Harry Wilson, Ryan Kent, Sergi Canos, Sheyi Ojo – they were all 18 months older than him. We lined them up and wanted to see when Trent would leave. He was pretty stubborn. There were times when he gave you that look,” Beal says with a soft look.

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“I’m not entirely sure about the people who are talking about his protection… he’s really world class. If he were Spanish or German, we would just admire him, so it’s interesting that he is in the England team, then out of it.

Beal, who has coached Declan Rice, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham at Chelsea, has a conflict of interest when it comes to England and their rich right-back pool. “I worked with Rhys James, he was [initially] small centre-forward, Tariq Lamptey, now at Brighton, Tino Livramento [now of Southampton] …so I would like one or two to switch positions so they can all play together!

“People create these superhumans out of them, but they are not. They’re just young boys or girls and they have 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 settled at 5:30am – noon ticking, board meeting on the horizon at 3pm, but happy to be working again in the city he calls home. closer to his sister and grandparents. At the same time, the typically manic pre-season schedule has little focus on special occasions, including his daughter Alba’s three-year-old birthday.

“We were supposed to celebrate her birthday yesterday, like all the bad dads in football do,” Beal says, bursting into laughter. “You have to lie to her about your daughter’s birthday… we spent the day at home together yesterday. She helps me a lot. The boys still want to talk to me about football – they are 8 and 10 years old – but my daughter just wants dad to have time. It’s nice to say that you’ve switched off, but it’s equally nice to know that you’re performing better than your peers. I get security and comfort from people who work from home.”

Michael Beal with Steven Gerrard during Aston Villa's home match against Leeds in the Premier League in February.
Michael Beal with Steven Gerrard during Aston Villa’s home match against Leeds in the Premier League in February. Photo: Nick Potts/PA.

It has always been impressive to train abroad and follow in the footsteps of two of my idols, Terry Venables and Sir Bobby Robson. He completed 17 hours of Portuguese lessons two weeks before flying to Sao Paulo.

“Probably now I can train him. It helped me at Villa and with [Alfredo] Morelos to the Rangers. It always sounds impressive for a minor person you are not talking to. They think, “Wow, he speaks good Portuguese.” The reality is that this is terrible, but I understand that it looks cool.

“It was a big hint for me at Chelsea when all these foreign managers came. They were not just elite managers, they spoke three or four languages ​​and were elite people. What I would say to young coaches now is that you have to improve your skills. You cannot look from the side and say: “I am not given opportunities.”

This summer, QPR signed Kenneth Paal, whom Beal first noticed in a tournament in Turkey when the left-back was 13, and Jake Clark-Salter, whom he worked with at Chelsea. Taylor Richards, who grew up in Shepherd’s Bush, and Tyler Roberts joined the team on loan. “We have a lot of players between the ages of 22 and 26 and they are all on the same path,” he says.

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In an effort to maximize his team’s potential, Beal split his coaching staff so that they would each be in charge of a different group of off-field players. Gavin Ward takes care of goalkeepers, Neil Banfield, who coached 12-year-old Beal at Charlton and spent 21 years at Arsenal before joining QPR in 2019 after scouting Gerrard at Rangers, defenders Damian Mathew, who hired Beal for Chelsea – midfielders, and Beal – strikers.

“Their job is to be like lieutenants, go and have breakfast or lunch with these players, find out where they are on their way, because everyone has hopes and dreams. “Okay, so this is where you want to go: what do we do about it every day?”

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