Michael Beale interview: Why ‘loyal’ QPR boss rejected Wolves move as excitement grows over promotion push

Staying put: Michael Beale turned down Wolves to remain as QPR boss last week  (PA)
Staying put: Michael Beale turned down Wolves to remain as QPR boss last week (PA)

Around three-o’clock last Wednesday afternoon, QPR boss Michael Beale turned off his phone and tried to shut out the noise.

Just noise. That is what Beale had called it 24 hours earlier, as rumours first spread that Wolves were considering making a man who had managed 15 games in his life their new head coach.

It would not be until he got back to his hotel room late that night, after QPR had beaten Cardiff to go top of the Championship, that Beale finally had the calm, the peace, the quiet he needed to make perhaps the most gutsy decision of his life.

A week on, Beale is reflecting on an evening most presumed would be his last in the dugout at Loftus Road. “I was very mindful that I wanted the team to play with real energy,” he tells Standard Sport. “If not, in that moment, people are going to say you’ve taken your eyes off the ball.”

By kick-off, those still very much on-grid had read the news that Wolves were not merely interested in Beale, but had made him their No1 target. By morning, he had decided to turn them down.

“A really important period for me was getting back to the hotel and being on my own,” he says. “Late at night, no one can ring you, your phone’s not going, so you can just process everything.”

Throughout the week, there had been frank conversations with the QPR hierarchy, most notably director of football Les Ferdinand and the owners whose vision had persuaded Beale to belatedly take the plunge into management only months earlier.

“The big thing was that all the staff I spoke to took the QPR badge off,” Beale says. “They spoke to me on a level as a person. I think everyone could realise it was a big opportunity for a young manager when there’s nothing guaranteed in this game.”

The following morning, running on little sleep, Beale held a short meeting with his players at QPR’s Heston training ground, informing them that he was staying put. Those playing regularly in his high-flying side were “delighted” and, he laughs, those struggling for minutes “probably a bit more mixed”.

“I’d said a lot of things to them about commitment to the cause, commitment to what we’re building, the journey they’re on,” the 42-year-old explains. “You have to be loyal to the words you’ve used.

“I always say to young players, ‘Get to 100 games and football will put you where you’re supposed to be’. If that’s the rule for young players, it’s got to be the rule for young managers as well. If I finish a season here at QPR, the minimum I can play is 48, which is only halfway there.”

I said a lot of things to the players about commitment... you have to be loyal to the words you’ve used

Avoidance of hypocrisy was just one of the factors that made up Beale’s mind, though he swiftly knocks back the idea that, with only a brief stint at QPR to fall back on, fear of failure was another.

“I completely believed in myself, having worked with players at that level in previous clubs,” he adds. “That was the exciting part, but I can’t enter into a relationship with someone else when I’m in one here.”

Rejecting Wolves’s courtship felt a touch awkward: “You have to say the words, say ‘I’m not going’ and then it’s like you’ve snubbed them. It’s not. I took it as a huge compliment but I wanted to politely decline.”

Ultimately, it was a decision born of loyalty, timing (moving on from projects at Rangers and Liverpool Under-23s too early made Beale “think sometimes it’s better to be the last one to leave than the first”) and a degree of selflessness, too.

“It’s the Premier League and, financially, it would have been more,” he explains. “But they were the two big things out of it, and they were very ‘me’ things.”

‘More’ probably slightly undersells the significance of the pay rise on offer from a wealthy Premier League club to a man who, five months ago, was still on a coach’s salary, but Beale is unmoved.

“Me and my wife came from a council estate and we’ve always said that if we end up back there, we’ll be alright,” he laughs. “That side of the world frightens me a bit anyway; the finances that will come if you’re good enough.”

If there is already conviction in Beale’s decision, then there is also some regret at how the brief saga played out.

“I don’t have an agent, and that’s probably the reason there was a big issue last week,” he says. “People were able to get to me a little bit easily, by social media or just people passing phone numbers around. There was no one person managing the situation.”

QPR can move back to the Championship summit with a win over Birmingham on Friday night (Getty Images)
QPR can move back to the Championship summit with a win over Birmingham on Friday night (Getty Images)

Beale has since suspended his Twitter account but insists he has “a real healthy relationship with social media” and uses it “for news more than anything”.

“I don’t mind interacting with people and it certainly wasn’t anything that happened last week,” he says. “Over the years, I’ve always come on and off. I just felt that it was time to take a bit of a break.”

There will be more eyeballs and more scrutiny on Beale and his side — who tonight travel to Birmingham in second place behind Burnley, who have played a game more — though he believes that, rather like Wolves’s approach, talk of a Premier League return for the Rs is premature.

“We need to show we can do it over a consistent period,” he says. “If we get to the March international break and we’re within touching distance, I’ll then speak very differently about what we can achieve.”

That Beale will almost certainly still be in charge by then gives QPR reason to believe they can stay the course.