Beale Ball: A look at Mick Beale's start to life at QPR
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: QPR manager Michael Beale applauds the fans after the Sky Bet Championship between Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers at Stadium of Light on August 13, 2022 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

When Michael ‘Mick’ Beale was appointed as QPR manager in June it’s likely that it was the first time many Rangers fans had heard of the coach.

Just three months into his stint in west London, though, he’s proving to be a popular figure amongst the fan base. 

It’s easy enough to talk-the-talk as a manager, but Beale’s transparency and honesty has been a breath of fresh air. He talks about football like he’s a fan himself; down the pub after the game who’s passionate whilst also immensely intelligent. 

He’s honest, engaging and light-hearted whilst being articulate and wholly intelligent. There was a big moment after the Carabao Cup exit to Charlton in August, just Beale’s third competitive game in charge, where he was outspoken and frank about his team’s performance. 

It bordered on being outwardly critical of his side but it reflected how the majority of the two thousand travelling fans felt whilst leaving The Valley. It set the precedent early on for his stint in charge, and it looks like he is walking-the-walk as well. 

He inherited a QPR squad who had a mixed season under previous manager Mark Warburton. Despite finding themselves just one point off the automatic promotion places in February, a disastrous end to the season saw them win just four from their last 18 games slipping out of the playoff places and ultimately costing Warburton his job. 

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Mark Warburton the head coach / manager of QPR during the Sky Bet Championship match between Huddersfield Town and Queens Park Rangers at Kirklees Stadium on April 15, 2022 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Mark Warburton the head coach / manager of QPR during the Sky Bet Championship match between Huddersfield Town and Queens Park Rangers at Kirklees Stadium on April 15, 2022 in Huddersfield, England. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

 

In true QPR fashion there was a fair amount of squad turnover in the summer, something which has become commonplace at Loftus Road in recent years.

But there wasn’t the budget in place for transfer fees to be paid or marquee loan signings from the Premier League. He had to make do with free transfers and a handful of loans.  

That’s the essence of the Beale appointment. He’s a coach first and foremost, and the developmental side of his work will be what he is ultimately judged on. 

Many will remember the lavish spending which characterised the R’s last stints in the Premier League but the ethos in W12 has shifted dramatically since that.

Under the guidance of CEO Lee Hoos and director of football Les Ferdinand the club has focussed on developing young talent to sell on for high transfer fees. 

They are currently in the middle of a transition of moving to a new training ground, where the academy and the first team will be based under one roof. Beforehand the first team trained at Harlington whilst the academy were based elsewhere. 

It is all part of a move to enhance this development and transition between the academy and the first team, and Beale was specifically appointed due to his extensive background of developmental coaching at the likes of the academies of Liverpool and Chelsea

So whilst the results in the league are of course vital to any manager, how successfully he oversees the development of young talent will be closely scrutinised. 

Despite largely languishing in mid-table of the Championship since their relegation in 2015, Warburton guided the club to top half finishes during the past two seasons. Now could well be the time to push on and start competing for a playoff space. 

  • At his disposal

Beale cited that one of the main attractions of the job was the squad at his disposal. With Chris Willock and Ilias Chair, he’s working with two of the most exciting attacking talents in the division.

Both have started the season in blistering from. Willock has scored five goals in seven appearances and boasts the best goals per 90 minutes in the division. Whereas Ilias Chair has assisted five goals already, whilst also notching three times himself. 

The way which Beale has set up his team tactically so far means that the pair are both played as roaming number 10’s behind the striker, with no wingers deployed. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Chris Willock of Queens Park Rangers celebrates with Ilias Chair after scoring their team's first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Luton Town at The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on November 19, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Chris Willock of Queens Park Rangers celebrates with Ilias Chair after scoring their team's first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Queens Park Rangers and Luton Town at The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on November 19, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

It feels like he has taken the shackles off of the team. Under Warburton the side played some really nice football at times, but they were often like a caged tiger, desperate to unleash themselves and go on the prowl but were restrained by their perimeters. 

The ex-boss famously used to discourage, and even ban, his players from taking shots from outside of the area due to the probability of scoring being too low. 

So far this season, no side in England’s top four divisions have scored more goals from outside of the box as Rangers. It goes to show the freedom which has been allowed to their attacking assets, and it seems to be working. 

More importantly, though, this attacking freedom where flair and individuality is actively encouraged is part of the DNA at Loftus Road. It’s why the number 10 is so revered, with legends like Stan Bowles, Rodney Marsh, Kevin Gallen, Adel Taarabt and Ebere Eze revelling in the shirt. 

Beale is therefore acutely in touch with the history of the club and the culture which he has set is in line with the traditions and values of QPR. Whilst of course there are going to be ups and downs during his tenure, sticking in line with this is encouraging. 

With the two number 10’s behind the striker, the absence of wingers means that the full-backs are integral to provide the width for Beale’s side. 

After the departures of Moses Odubajo, Lee Wallace and Sam McCallum last season both full back areas were a crucial area of recruitment when Beale came into the club. 

The two new full-backs brought in by Beale have been equally as impressive. Ethan Laird joined on loan from Manchester United and has been extremely productive offensively, and has even made the Championship team of the season so far according to whoscored ratings

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2022/01/24/manchester-united/1099457-possible-ins-and-outs-for-manchester-united-as-transfer-deadline-day-approaches.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2022/01/24/manchester-united/1099457-possible-ins-and-outs-for-manchester-united-as-transfer-deadline-day-approaches.html'>Ethan Laird</a></strong> of Queens Park Rangers celebrates with teammate Ilias Chair after scoring their team's second goal during the Sky Bet Championship between Queens Park Rangers and Hull City at <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2021/08/20/championship/1082943-queens-park-rangers-vs-barnsley-preview-how-to-watch-team-news-kick-off-time-predicted-lineups-and-ones-to-watch.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2021/08/20/championship/1082943-queens-park-rangers-vs-barnsley-preview-how-to-watch-team-news-kick-off-time-predicted-lineups-and-ones-to-watch.html'>Loftus Road</a></strong> on August 30, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: Ethan Laird of Queens Park Rangers celebrates with teammate Ilias Chair after scoring their team's second goal during the Sky Bet Championship between Queens Park Rangers and Hull City at Loftus Road on August 30, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

 

The left back, Kenneth Paal, was potentially more of a low-key signing. Joining on a free transfer from Dutch side PEC Zwolle he has provided an outlet down the left hand side and has assisted twice himself. 

So Beale has created an offensively dangerous side based upon Willock and Chair’s creativity and offensively minded full-backs. 

Perhaps the one part of the puzzle which has been left somewhat unfilled is the number 9 position. Loanee Andre Gray was Rangers’ top scorer last term and veteran forward Charlie Austin was released at the end of the season. 

That left Lyndon Dykes as the main striker and the failure of the club to recruit another one wasn’t the most popular of decisions come deadline day. 

The Scotland international has only scored once this season and has missed a flurry of great chances to add to his tally, which led to him being dropped for the last two games before the international break.

However, should Willock and Chair continue their goalscoring form the need for a traditional twenty goal a season striker might not be too desperate.

Perhaps the main worry for Beale is that the team’s capitulation in the second half of last season coincided with Willock’s season-ending injury in March. 

Winning just twice in the remaining nine games after his injury would concern Beale if a similar injury was to occur this season.

  • Where now? 

As the international break comes to a close, QPR and Beale return to action in a promising position. Sitting in 6th place and five points behind the automatic positions, they are where the new gaffer will probably want to remain all season. 

Keeping Willock and Chair fit and in-form will be the priority for them if they are to have any chance of staying in the top six, but they are certainly looking like a team to watch out for this term. 

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