Michael Beale on the journey to Rangers, 'best decision' he has ever made, Arrigo Sacchi and cheap Sutton barb

It’s the best decision Michael Beale has ever made. The Rangers boss’ career was at a crossroads. He had risen through the youth system at Charlton Athletic but “didn’t make the breakthrough to first-team football”. At 21, a significant choice had to be made. “Whether to continue to play amateur football at a good level in England or go down the coaching route”.

He hasn’t looked back since. Not on a journey which has encompassed so much. From starting at under-6 football with Chelsea, his boyhood club, to roles at Liverpool and Brazilian giants Sao Paulo. He has shared tables, conversations and swapped ideas with some of the UK’s best footballers and coaches. Now, with fewer than 40 games under his managerial level at first-team football he is ready to lead Rangers out in a national cup final against Celtic.

"My career as a coach has been at some really, really good clubs at academy level,” Beale said. “In the last few years, it has probably accelerated. I’ve experienced a lot and been around a lot of very, very good managers, a lot of very good players.

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“It was long overdue, making the step to being a manager. People wonder is he just a coach or can he manage? My aim was to one day be a manager.”

Sacchi inspiration

If 36 games appears small in terms of experience on the field, the 42-year-old has packed plenty in off the pitch. From the circumstances in which he left QPR to making the grown-up decision to allow Partick Thistle to score and then the tedium that was brought on following comments about Chris Sutton. One of the ex-Celtic player’s many rebuttals centred around having to google Beale's playing career. Was it cheap?

"Of course it is because it’s generally said by ex-professionals,” he said. “But there are a number of excellent coaches who have not had the most high profile playing careers.”

Beale recalled the famous quote from Arrigo Sacchi, the legendary Italian manager who revolutionised AC Milan in the 90s despite never having played to any meaningful level. "I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first,” he mused.

Arrigo Sacchi proved you didn't have to be a great footballer to be a successful coach. Getty: Grazia Neri/ALLSPORTArrigo Sacchi proved you didn't have to be a great footballer to be a successful coach. Getty: Grazia Neri/ALLSPORT
Arrigo Sacchi proved you didn't have to be a great footballer to be a successful coach. Getty: Grazia Neri/ALLSPORT

“Coaching and playing are two different things,” Beale noted. “Being able to execute something is different to being able to describe to someone how to do it.

“I have done a hell of a lot of studying to get to this position here. It’s a very privileged position and took a long time to get in the room, if you like. People think ‘you have just arrived’ when you haven‘t. There was a lot of time and effort put in and I think I came here the best route. From starting with under-six at Chelsea to working at first team level and being a first team coach. I have needed every step of that.

“I was very fortunate going to work at Chelsea where we had lots of fantastic first team managers. But don’t forget either that Steve Clarke was there, Damien Matthew – who works with me now – Brendan Rodgers, Steve Holland, Joe Edwards – who was assistant to Frank Lampard. Then I went to Liverpool with Neil Critchley, who has just left QPR, Steven Gerrard, Pep Lijnders – who is assistant to Jurgen Klopp now – and Rodolfo Borrell, the current assistant to Guardiola. So I have been in rooms and shared ideas across the table about ideas and it’s fascinating. That journey, for me, has been brilliant.”

Building a management team

Beale understands the nuances of coaching. It is no longer about one totemic figurehead who makes all the decisions. It is much more of a collective effort where there is room for different ideas, different experiences. There is no right or wrong way to become a successful manager. Those who become a success do it through building a team, not just on the park but off of it.

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"I think it’s different,” he said. “I have a lot of processes and ways of coaching and ideas that are not as easy for an ex-player to get. What they have is, when they are in the changing room, they have a unique eye for being in that moment, the things that are said and the experience of being there. The blend would be both. I probably experienced that working with Rogerio Ceni and Steven Gerrard, both players that played for clubs, icons at Sao Pauolo and Liverpool for a number of years. I thought the blend was fantastic. We really, really helped each other. When you step out on your own, you are able to put your full ideas in.

"It’s about building a management team, it’s not about one person anymore. I know myself and Ange [Postecoglou] have to take these interviews on and be at the forefront of the club. But it’s actually about a management team and about your background staff, be that Neil Banfield, Damien Matthew or Harry Watling or John Kennedy, Gavin Strachan and Harry Kewell for Ange. You need your staff, they are an extension of you. They get around the players. When you pick a team and players are not involved they don’t want to hear from you. Your assistants have to go and pick up the pieces for you, it’s important.”

He added: “There has been a lot of belief and faith shown in me and I’m trying every day to pay that back to the people who have given me this opportunity.”



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