Dave Davis spoke to Michael Beale who has returned to Liverpool at the Academy in the role of head of coaching for the foundation phase.
After a spell with Sao Paulo as assistant manager, Michael Beale has returned to Liverpool Football Club to coach at the Academy.
According to Liverpool’s official website, his “responsibilities include overseeing the coaching programme, with a view to developing not only the fledgling footballers but creating skilled coaches too.”
To gain an insight into the appointment and the decision to return, Rousing the Kop had a chat with Michael.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for you personally. How excited are you to be back at Liverpool FC?
I’m delighted to return to the club. It’s a special place both in terms of the history of the club but also the people that are here inside the academy and working each day.
On returning to England, this was the place that I wanted to work over any other. This is due to the direction we are moving in as an academy and the relationships I built in 4.5yrs I was with the club.
It looks like you’ve been all around the world based on your Twitter account during that period. What have been the highlights?
There has been so many experiences over the past 10 months that will make me a stronger person and coach in the future. I am very fortunate to be asked to present at coach education events across the world and that has seen me travel to various countries to share best practice in youth development.
In my role as assistant manager at Sao Paulo FC, I was also lucky to be able to visit most of Brazil and also play in Buenos Aires, Argentina. All of these experiences will be valuable to me as a coach.
There are numerous familiar faces still at the academy like Neil Critchley and Alex Ingelthorpe. Will that make it feel like you’re coming home?
Yes – it feels like coming home, but its also to an improved academy due to the changes that Alex has made to both the facilities and staffing. The addition of Steven Gerrard and Jordan Milson to the academy and also a number of full-time coaches joining in the younger age groups is a huge positive.
Now, we have full-time coaches from the u8 through to the u23 team and that is really impressive.
You’ve worked with the U18s and U23s, then the Assistant Manager role and now Head of Coaching for the Foundation Phase. What are the biggest differences between the age ranges?
I have been fortunate to work at each stage of player development through my time at Chelsea, Liverpool and Sao Paulo. It’s important to understand what is required at each step of the player’s development. Examples include creating a hard drive of techniques in the primary school ages or managing a player through his teenage years of growth and maturation.
The need for specialists at each stage is very important to player development. It’s important to understand that the relationship between the player and the ball is hugely important. This love is created in the early years. So the coaches who teach the game at the earliest age group are hugely important to create this special passion for the game.
If we can get recruitment and development of players correct in the earliest age groups then we have a great chance of having success as an academy in the future. Ryan Kent, Harry Wilson, Cameron Brannagan, Conor Randall, Ben Woodburn and Trent Alexander are players that have made this full journey from the u6 to first team. This is something we can be very proud of.
You’ve previously worked with the U18s and U23s at Kirby. What experiences have you had that are transferable to the younger age groups?
I think that when you are u23 coach you are the end line of the academy and ultimately understand what it takes to make the last step to the first team. Therefore, you can use this experience wisely when looking at the development of the younger players and the qualities they need to have in order to progress in later years.
I have done this job previously in my time at Chelsea and it was hugely rewarding. I am fortunate to see a number of those players go on to win the FA youth cup, UEFA Youth League and making Premier League debuts now. So combining the knowledge of Chelsea, Liverpool and Sao Paulo will be important.
You mentioned in previous interviews that success for the younger age groups was transition to Melwood and the first team. What does success look like in this role?
Success in the primary school age groups is across three main areas (1) recruitment of the best potential players and players of different types that will give us a wide range of talent (2) to create a love and passion for football and coming into the academy. Creating this environment is hugely important to player development (3) developing each players “Hard Drive” of techniques on both feet that enable them to be move smoothly into the secondary age groups and the bigger 11v11 games from u12 upwards. It’s a wonderful stage to be working in.
One comment you made about too much information or incorrect instructions being given to youngsters by coaches drew our attention. What are the common mistakes you feel many coaches make?
I don’t remember the comment made – but I think we sometimes rush to the bigger game too quickly with our youngest players. I believe this is due to not enough coach education or big influences in coach development being specific to young players. For example, coaches will often search online for exercises or tactics used by the top managers in world football. This will see coaches working on aspects such as pressing or positional play with young players who are not yet technically developed.
For young players, you need to make training very specific to them and a constant challenge of – you vs yourself – in order to develop your individual understanding and learning. Coaches who push towards team development too soon will deprive the players of personal development. This is a delicate area in youth development and something that must be managed well.
Away from Liverpool, we know you’ve become a patron of a football educational provider. What can you tell us about that?
I am an ambassador for an education company that is based in Liverpool. LLS is a company that helps develop young sports professionals in the 16-19 age group and gives them unique qualifications and experiences. Developing young people is something that I am hugely passionate about and the opportunity to help LLS grow both in the UK and worldwide has been extremely rewarding over the past 18 months. The company has been given awards for their dedication to developing young people and was founded by two young coaches from Liverpool.
Similar question to what we asked last time, Michael. Everything goes to plan in the next five years, what experiences will you have had?
Well that’s an interesting question for many reasons. The short answer is happy! Because football is a game that can take you in many directions and nothing is guaranteed. I originally joined Liverpool on the 18/09/2012 as u16 coach and I returned to Liverpool on the 18/09/2017 exactly five years later. In the time between I have been an u16 coach, u23 assistant, u23 head coach and assistant manager. What is clear is that I want to be working in the game and with young people to develop them. I do have aspirations to work at senior level again in the future, but only after I have achieved some personal aims in youth development with Liverpool FC.
Massive thank you to Michael for his thoughts and our best wishes for the future in his new role at Liverpool.