Michael Beale’s coaching staff analysed as Neil Banfield, Damien Matthew and Harry Watling check in at Rangers
The trio all worked as part of Beale’s backroom team at QPR this season.
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Michael Beale has began his tenure as Rangers manager and has brought three members of his backroom staff from QPR with him to Glasgow ‘with further appointments to be confirmed in the days ahead.”
The Englishman was officially appointed as the Ibrox club’s 18th permanent manager on Monday - just seven days after Giovanni van Bronckhorst was sacked from the role.
Beale faces a baptism of fire as he attempts to re-energise the Rangers squad ahead of the second half of the season and bids to overhaul Premiership leaders Celtic’s nine-point advantage in the title race.
The 42-year-old has undoubtedly made significant strides since being appointed to Steven Gerrard’s coaching staff in 2018, but given his lack of managerial experience, inviting a coach with vast knowledge and understanding of Scottish football to join his coaching department would prove to be a sensible approach with former Rangers stars Lee Wallace, Kevin Thomson and Barry Ferguson all cited as possible contenders.
The new regime featuring Neil Banfield, Damien Matthew and Harry Watling have already got down to work at the club’s training ground at Auchenhowie. They have all followed Beale’s footsteps by moving up from London, while it remains to be seen whether a fitness and conditioning coach will also be added to the Gers coaching network.
Here, GlasgowWorld takes an in-depth look at the trio’s coaching background...
Neil Banfield - assistant manager
The former Arsenal first-team coach joined forces with Beale at QPR and has followed the Londoner up the M6 to continue as his right-hand man. He brings a wealth of experience to the club.
The 60-year-old is well-known in the British game after spending over 20 years with the Gunners and helping to produce some talented academy prospects such as Jack Wilshire and Cesc Fabregas. Former Gers boss Steven Gerrard added Banfield to his scouting department in 2018 before he was lured to Loftus Road.
Banfield reckons his success in the game is largely down to the influence of ex-Celtic manager Liam Brady, who spent two seasons at Parkhead and failed to win a single trophy during the early 1990s.
Irish great Brady later served as Head of Youth Development and Academy Director at Arsenal where he brought Banfield to the club.
The new Gers No.2 confessed: “Liam Brady offered me the coach role to come in as a coach. Liam progressed to Head of Youth. Then we changed the name of the reserves to be part of the ‘Elite Group’, which I was made head of. From then, Arsène (Wenger) offered me the role of first team coach.”
He enjoyed spells at Crystal Palace, Adelaide City and Leyton Orient during his short playing career before joining Charlton Athletic as their head of youth coach in 1992.
Banfield previously stated: “Standards are the most important thing, it sits right at the top of the list and not just on the pitch, off the pitch too. They must always be 100 per cent. The players get to know what we are looking for from them, and that might be over a coffee between sessions. You have that opportunity to speak freely.
“Players today want that platform. They want to be able to speak with the coaches. It’s their game, they are the owners of their careers and they need to be able to discuss it openly with you. We are there to help them, to make them better players.
“I have been really impressed with Mick’s detail. He is very clear in what he wants from his staff, he gives you very good direction and his clarity has really stood out to me. He is very strong in what he wants. He wants to play the beautiful game but he also knows that sometimes it isn’t the beautiful game!”
Damian Matthew - first team coach
The ex-Chelsea player has gained extensive coaching experience in multiple roles and joined Beale’s set-up at QPR as an assistant during the summer. He has also decided to head north of the border as part of a backroom overhaul.
After progressing through the youth ranks at Stamford Bridge in the early 1990s, Matthew would go on to play for Crystal Palace, Burnley and Northampton Town before his playing career was cut short due to injury at the age of 29.
A UEFA qualified coach, he joined Wolves’s scouting department before returning to Chelsea as a Youth Development Officer. Having filled various academy roles at Charlton Athletic, he was promoted to first-team coach by Chris Powell in 2011 and remained in that role for four years.
However, Matthew’s work as a scout for Celtic on a part-time basis will have raised eyebrows with several Rangers fans, having scoured the UK for potential signings in London and the south-east of England.
The 52-year-old had a brief five-month spell in Millwall’s youth academy as Head of Coaching earlier this year before leaving the club to link up with Beale at QPR.
Speaking previously on a scouting podcast, Matthew explained that his time as a Hoops scout was only ever a stop-gap situation for him. He stated: “When I lost my job at Charlton in October 2015, I took a bit of time off out of the game although I was watching matches.
“So I then became the scout for Celtic for London and the south east of England. Although it was only a part-time role, it was healthy because it allowed me to watch games again and see some good young players. But Celtic understood that I was always aspiring to get back into the coaching side of the game.”
On his relationship with Beale, he added: “I have a very similar philosophy to Michael. He has a fantastic reputation as a developer and I have no doubts that players will be impressed by him. I was really impressed by Michael the first time I met him many years ago. I always knew he wanted to go into management.”
Harry Watling - Development & set-piece coach
Specialising in set-pieces, the 33-year-old is an accomplished young coach who could prove to be a valuable asset for the Rangers squad in terms of building relations with the players.
He never played professionally but made his name as one of the youngest English coaches to earn a UEFA A licence at the age of just 26. He carried out extensive work as an academy coach with Chelsea (2009-2014), Millwall (2014-2018) and West Ham (2018-2021) before heading to America.
He was appointed head coach of USL Championship side Hartford United last year and broke the club’s record for the biggest winning margin in their history - a 7-0 victory over New York Red Bulls II. He resigned from his role back in June but was only out of work for a month before moving to QPR.
Speaking previously about his QPR appointment, Watling said: “I am very much a product of Mick in terms of what I believe in and I’m fortunate that we see the game in a similar way. That alignment is so important because, ultimately, we have to carry out the gaffer’s message in terms of what he wants from the players.
“Mick is very inspirational on the grass and I just wanted to emulate that. I will be on the grass every day. We won’t let the set-plays consume what we are doing, we will make sure they link in to how we train. They are not separate events, we will make sure everything is glued together. Our set-plays will be an extension of what the gaffer wants in terms of our identity on the pitch. The ideas that I’ve got will always be run past him but a lot of the things I want to do I already know he is in favour of.”