“A lot of people won’t have a clue what Michael Beale does on the Rangers training pitch, but what he does is really quite special.”
It is difficult to find a more defining day in Rangers’ ascent to the summit of Scottish football than 4 May 2018 – simply because there isn’t one.
Steven Gerrard was paraded as the Ibrox side’s new manager in front a crowd of thousands, all of whom would have been desperate for him to revive the fortunes of a club that could not even call themselves second best in the country at that point.
A month later, the former England captain confirmed his coaching staff. Fellow former Liverpool midfielder and former Scotland captain Gary McAllister was a big-name appointment as assistant but the arrival of first-team coach Michael Beale perhaps slipped under the radar.
To this day, outside Ibrox there is still an element of the unknown when it comes to the 40-year-old’s work. But, three years on, it has become clear that he may well have proven to be Gerrard’s best signing.
But how did the former Chelsea, Liverpool and Sao Paolo coach come to be at Ibrox and how he has had such a monumental impact on Rangers?
From church halls to Chelsea
Playing on the streets of a south London council estate as a kid, Beale dreamed of making it in the professional game. But the Charlton Athletic academy product’s dreams ended at the age of 21.
Trials in his homeland, the United States and the Netherlands – where he was introduced to a new way of playing – followed, before he began an unconventional route into coaching six months later.
With leftover funds from his playing days, Beale decided to invest in the Brazilian Soccer Schools franchise, which aims to teach young kids the art of futsal. Think of it as Brazil’s answer to five-a-side football, but played with a smaller, low-bounce ball to enhance close control and technical ability.
Beale ran the programme in a Bromley church hall and, while business did not start too well, it sparked his love and passion for developing youth at grassroots level before leading to a role at Chelsea.
“Your personality is so important,” he told Coaches Voice. “It’s someone’s son or daughter. It’s important you give them a fantastic interest and inspire them.
“When young kids get out their mum or dad’s car, and they run to the pitch to start training, if after 15 minutes they don’t have the same energy that’s you that’s got it wrong. It’s the same for a professional footballer.”
A 10-year spell at Chelsea began on a part-time basis in 2003, before ending as a full-time youth coach having spent time working under Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Guus Hiddink, while developing players such as Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham.
That resulted in a move to Liverpool, where Beale oversaw the Under-16s before progressing in 2014 to the Under-23s. A staggering 18 members of his squad made first-team debuts in the space of two years, including current regulars Trent Alexander-Arnold and Curtis Jones.
Cruyff, Sir Bobby & Sao Paolo
Beale’s fascination with foreign football stems from a 1990s obsession with Serie A and Football Italia, as well as Johan Cruyff – “the most important man in the history of the game”.
But his biggest influence has always been Sir Bobby Robson. Not only because of his success and personality, but for his willingness to coach abroad in Eindhoven, Lisbon and Barcelona.
Given that, Beale’s decision to become assistant at Sao Paolo in 2017 – a club he describes as the “Manchester United or Liverpool of South America” – was too good to turn down.
An eight-month spell in Brazil saw him develop his coaching “by 50%” under Rogerio Ceni – football’s highest-scoring goalkeeper with 131 goals – and coaching players such as centre-back Eder Militao, who joined Real Madrid from Porto in 2019 in a deal worth moe than £40m.
A brief return to Liverpool followed – at a time when Gerrard was Under-18 coach – before Rangers made their move for the Anfield icon a year later.
“One morning, he [Gerrard] called me,” Beale says. “I didn’t even know the number. He asked if I fancied meeting up for a coffee. I’d already heard a rumour that he was going to Rangers.
“Just the previous day, someone at Liverpool had said he was going to ask me to go with him. I’d laughed it off. Now it was happening.”
Recently Gerrard confirmed he had been eyeing up his coaching team long before his Ibrox appointment, and someone with Beale’s knowledge and experience was always going to be a part of that.
“What I’ll never do is try to do someone else’s job when they are better than me at doing it,” Gerrard told The Robbie Fowler Podcast.
“It would take me 15 to 20 years to become as good as Michael Beale as an on-pitch coach, delivering sessions on a daily basis, so I let Mick be Mick because he’s the expert.”
‘Gerrard is very lucky to have him’
The responsibility Gerrard gives Beale to plan and deliver sessions is hugely appreciated by Beale, and that time on the training pitch has created a lasting impact on the players he has coached.
Ex-Ibrox midfielders Andy Halliday and Greg Docherty have also given glowing endorsements of Beale, with Halliday telling The Athletic “he is probably the best coach I’ve worked under” and Docherty adding saying he is the most “devoted” person to football he has ever seen.
But it is not just the players who share that admiration. Former Rangers reserve team manager Peter Lovenkrands was so in awe at Beale’s work that he wished he was a player again.
“What he does with the players on the pitch is phenomenal,” Lovenkrands tells BBC Scotland.
“I remember he was giving me sessions to take down because I was doing the reserves; he wanted us to copy it. I was loving it. I actually wanted to take part in the training.
“He’s so on the ball. He’s so good at what he does. The players love it. His preparation for each game is fantastic to watch, and Gerrard is very lucky to have him.”