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Reaction: Michael Beale appointed as Sunderland Head Coach

Sunderland have appointed Michael Beale as their new Head Coach - with fans left wondering whether this will be a shrewd or risky move from the club as we look to move forward into the future.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

After days of speculation, Sunderland AFC have finally confirmed that the next Head Coach of the club will be former Glasgow Rangers and QPR boss Michael Beale.

The 43-year-old - whose coaching experience includes working for Chelsea, Liverpool, Sao Paulo and Aston Villa - joins having been sacked eleven weeks ago by Rangers following a poor start to the season in the Scottish Premiership.

He was touted for the Wolves job last season when at QPR but eventually headed north to Scotland, where he failed to win over the fanbase despite a win ratio of 77% having ultimately fallen short each time they came up against Ange Postecoglu’s Celtic - losing in two cup finals last season against their nearest and dearest rivals.

Speaking to about the appointment, Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman said:

We have monitored Michael’s career for some time and we are delighted to have reached an agreement for him to become our new Head Coach. He has an excellent and well-founded reputation for developing players and he is an outstanding progressive coach, who is aligned with our playing identity and naturally fits within our structure alongside Mike Dodds and the wider team. We continue to trust in our established process of identifying the right candidates to take us forward at these junctures and although Michael has had a setback, we feel we are getting him at the right time in his coaching journey and our journey as a Club.

Michael Beale added:

It’s a huge honour to be joining the Sunderland family and I would like to thank Kyril, Kristjaan and the rest of the Executive Team for the faith and responsibility they have placed in me. The existing coaching team deserve huge credit for the way they navigated the interim period and like all of the staff at the Club, they will continue to be vitally important moving forward alongside the incredible fans that make SAFC such an historic and unique Club. It’s clear there is some excellent work being done at senior and academy level and I’m excited to support those efforts and implement my own ideas, as we build on the strong identity already established within the Club.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus said:

I’m thrilled to welcome Michael to our Club and wish him every success here at the Stadium of Light. Throughout our discussions, it was clear that he shares our ideals on implementing a high-performance culture and he is committed to a playing style that we feel is central to our progress. I would also like to place on record my gratitude to Mike Dodds and our coaching team for not only leading us through the interim period, but for adopting a bold and creative approach that inspired memorable back-to-back wins. Alongside Michael, I truly believe our people will continue to drive the Club forward as we enter 2024 with renewed energy, excitement and optimism.

When news broke about the potential appointment of Beale last week, it was met with a largely negative reaction online from the fanbase, and what’s clear from the off is that he’s going to have to win his doubters over very quickly.

The sour taste he left in the mouths of the fans up north can’t of course be ignored, but by the same token nor can the impression he left on people he’s worked with - the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jermain Defoe and Emi Martinez having all talked him up in the past as one of the greatest coaches they have worked with.

Being the manager of Rangers and the Head Coach of Sunderland are, of course, two very different things. As time goes on we come to learn a great deal more about what ‘the model’ actually is here, and the position of Head Coach is arguably the most dispensable role at the club. As Mike Dodds was able to demonstrate recently, we can carry on without missing a beat if the structure around it is solid — and it is.

One of the common criticisms I’ve read about Beale’s time at Rangers was his recruitment, which won’t be particularly relevant here given we know the Head Coach almost has no say in which players we sign. It was a big reason why Alex Neil and Tony Mowbray were unable to see eye to eye with the ownership in the end. If Beale is happy to just be a coach - the job we’re told he’s supposedly brilliant at - then that could make this a productive partnership.

Beale’s track record of working with young players is impressive, and at Sunderland there are plenty of young players for him to work with, so from that perspective, I can see why they may have hired him.

What cannot be ignored though is that in his two previous spells as a manager, he made mistakes - and all managers make mistakes, but Beale has to demonstrate he’s learned from those experiences. When with Queens Park Rangers he had them flying high in the Championship - and given the way they ended up struggling by the end of the season, you could say they were underperforming - but his conduct in courting himself for other jobs was not good, and left a bitter taste when he eventually departed.

The fact he’s out of work currently will have weighed heavily in his favour too I’d imagine - all four of the Head Coach appointments made since Kyril Louis-Dreyfus bought the club have been the same. Given the average lifespan of a head coach at Sunderland is less than a year, you can sort of see the logic even if you might not agree with it.

Without knowing who else we were looking at for the job, I imagine comparatively there was very little between the candidates at the top of the list, so the question of “is this guy so good that we should buy him out of his contract over appointing, say, Michael Beale?” will have no doubt been asked.

I guess we’ll never know. What we do know is that Michael Beale is the man they’ve chosen to lead us forward from this point, and he starts with a clean slate and my best wishes — as do every coach and player that Sunderland bring to the club. I’m more interested in seeing for myself what he can do than I am in what he’s done elsewhere, despite being somewhat underwhelmed by the appointment.

I’m sure he knows that he’s got to win people over quickly, so these next few weeks as we lead up to the new year - and a tasty cup tie against Newcastle United - will be absolutely crucial to whether or not he’s a success at Sunderland or not.


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