Speak to anyone who has followed Steven Gerrard’s career, and they will tell you how important Michael Beale is. The coach has been with Gerrard since he was a youth coach at Liverpool, and he is highly respected for his work in the game. Having been at Rangers with Gerrard, where they won a league title going unbeaten, there was natural clamour to see hat Beale could do on his own. Now, we will find out – he has signed on as the head coach of Queens Park Rangers.
Critics of Gerrard have suggested that Beale was the de facto manager, with Gerrard the ‘face’ of Beale’s tactical plan. This will now be tested outside of paper talk and fan tattle. However, Gerrard clearly knows that he needed someone to replace the former Sau Paulo assistant manager. He has moved to land quite a coup in the arrival of Neil Critchley.
Critchley had most recently managed Blackpool, taking them from League One into the Championship before consolidation. His work there has been seen as highly impressive, doing so on a limited budget and with very little room for mistakes. His ability to elevate young players and to give cast-offs from other clubs a new lease of life has been seen as essential to the rise of Blackpool.
An offer came in from Villa to move up to the number two role there, though, and he has taken it. While it might seem odd for a coach to leave a senior management role in a good division to move to an assistant role, it does make sense. For one, Critchley will have a fair amount of control at Villa just as Beale did.
He will also be working with someone he knows and respects in Gerrard, paired up at a massive club.
Critchley exit surprises Blackpool, but understood
In a statement from the club officially, Blackpool made clear they were disappointed to see Critchley leave. However, unlike other recent appointments in England, there was no bitterness or accusations of foul play. Instead, Blackpool simply wished their former coach all the best in an exciting new role.
In the statement, Simon Sadler, the owner of the Tangerines, said: Neil has been a consummate professional ever since arriving at Blackpool and really bought into what this club and town are all about,” Sadler told the club’s website. “He has built up strong relationships with the staff, players and supporters and made some special memories for us all.
“Naturally, we are disappointed to lose him, but thank him for all that he has achieved during his time at Bloomfield Road and wish him well in the Premier League with Aston Villa. Our primary focus now turns to succession planning and making the best possible appointment to continue taking this great club of ours forward.”
For Critchley, this is a chance to prove his tactical acumen can work with better players and at a higher level than the Championship. For Gerrard, it is a chance to prove that his methods go beyond the work of Michael Beale, regarded as one of the best coaches in England.