Michael Beale a statement appointment for QPR but must live up to the hype

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From the language wheeled out around the appointment of QPR’s new head coach last week, you might’ve been forgiven for wondering whether they’d resurrected Johan Cruyff.

The new man was hailed as a “spectacular coach” by chairman Amit Bhatia, the “outstanding, unanimous choice” at the end of a rigorous recruitment process, boasting an “incredible reputation” and “incredible track record”.

So anyone who had not been across the Rs’ managerial search would have been justified in feeling a little bemused to learn that the name associated with such effusive praise was the unfamiliar one of Michael Beale. After all, the 41-year-old has never even been a manager before.

Speak to those within the game, however, and many will tell you that the hype is justified. After turning to coaching when his own professional career faltered at the age of 21, across spells working with various age groups at Chelsea, as an assistant manager to the great Rogerio Ceni at Sao Paolo and in two stints at Liverpool, Beale’s stock in knowing circles soared.

He rose to relative wider prominence when following Steven Gerrard from Melwood to Ibrox and began to be hailed as the brains behind Rangers’ success, not merely by the media but by plenty inside the camp.

“I’ve worked with some top managers and top coaches and he is up there,” said Jermaine Defoe.

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(Getty Images)

In truth, the moniker almost certainly does a disservice to Gerrard’s own credentials, but the Liverpool great has been open in his admission that Beale has continued to shape and lead much of his team’s work on the training pitch at Aston Villa, and has been resigned for some time to losing him to a No1 post.

“I’ve been looking for the right opportunity, the right club”, Beale said, though in some ways it is a little peculiar that he has found both at Loftus Road.

He cites Bobby Robson as his managerial idol because of the way the great man embraced foreign football culture and has spoken of his desire to work abroad again after a formative eight-month stint in Brazil, yet has now taken his first gig a mere 15 miles from where he grew up in Bromley.

It is a departure, too, from QPR’s recent modus operandi, which has seen them turn to proven Championship bosses in Steve McClaren, Ian Holloway and Mark Warburton for each of their past three permanent appointments.

But scratch beneath the surface and it is not difficult to see why the partnership has the potential to be a fruitful one.

After the infamous years of excess, QPR have made a conscious shift towards a smarter, more sustainable approach, and are desperate to make better use of an academy that has proven its capacity to produce first-team footballers, most recently in Osman Kaykay and Darnell Furlong, and most famously Raheem Sterling.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Youth development is Beale’s bread and butter: he cites legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, who mentored Michael Jordan in college, as another of his influences, and among many success stories himself played a notable role in the rise of arguably the country’s outstanding young footballer, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

He will not hesitate to exploit the talent that the Rs hierarchy are sure is there, but at Rangers in particular also proved his ability to raise the ceilings of even the most experienced professionals, fascinated by the use of specialist position coaches in the NFL to hone specific skillsets.

“I’ve got a huge desire for individual development and fine-tuning players,” he said in an interview with The Guardian back in 2017. “I don’t believe in saying there’s no ‘I’ in team.”

Nor is it difficult to see why Bhatia & Co. were so wowed during the interview process - dig out the webinar he gave for The Coaches’ Voice last year and you’ll get a flavour for it yourself.

Fine, there is the odd Brentism thrown in (“We never look sideways to compare - only for inspiration”). But Beale is passionate, articulate and concise as he discusses his approach to implementing a new identity and style of play (that he joins with a full preseason ahead is a major plus in that regard), deconstructing a philosophy built on “high energy football” and a consistent, reliable core with a demand for fluency and flexibility in the final third.

“I want football that’s exciting to play in first and then exciting to watch,” Beale says, in his mission statement.

His looks a statement appointment by QPR, too  - but in a very different way to how they used to make them.

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