Wednesday, October 04, 2006

David Beckham for England (v Finland), 24 March 2001

I have been thinking about this for a while now, and my opinion on the matter hasn't altered one bit.

David Beckham has been bloody harshly treated by Steve McClaren.

There. I've said it.

I'm not talking now about his celebrity status, or his daft wife, or his off-field activity. I am talking solely about his contribution to the England cause.

Yes, his form for England over recent months has been patchy at best. Yes, he is no longer a fixture for his club side and all of a sudden has some genuine competition for the right sided midfield role at international level. Yes, McClaren had different ideas about the way he wanted England to play, using Steven Gerrard in that position.

But of all his many faults, the things that I admired David Beckham the most for were his honour and his loyalty to the England cause. He has 94 England caps and during that time developed a reputation as someone that would give blood and sweat to the England cause. To consign someone like that to the dustbin of international football history (which McClaren has surely done) seems to me insensitive and unnecessary.

Yes, his form has dipped. But a fit David Beckham is surely an asset to a 23 man England squad. You really telling me that Kieron Richardson, Michael Carrick or Phil Neville are better options from the bench than Beckham? Youth will get you so far, but look at France as a great example of a nation that realised it needed the presence of its seasoned, experienced professionals (some of whose form was worse than Beckham's). They went all the way to the World Cup Final.

I also don't think McClaren's "I prefer Gerrard. and Lennon. and Wright-Phillips. and Pennant. and I have asked Tony Daley to come out of international retirement" attitude towards the situation was particularly well-advised either.

I'm not sure I thought I would ever say it, but I feel really, really sorry for Beckham. McClaren could have got away with not starting him, but I think it was extremely unwise to cast him adrift in this manner.


swisslet said...

Well, I disagree with you for several reasons:

1) Beckham has not performed on the pitch for England for some time. At the last world cup, we were hopelessly pedestrian, and we only looked like we might spring into life when Lennon was chucked onto the right flank. Becks played better at right-back than he did on the right wing. His strongest asset has always been his passing and his crossing, and latterly for England he wasn’t doing much of either, and his long humped passes to Rooney (something which Gerrard was also guilty of) were just a total waste of posession. He’s not even sure of his place at his club any more either: are Real Madrid really interested in keeping him as a player or is he just a marketing tool for their brand? When he plays, Real look as one-paced as England (more so if Raul and Van Nistelrooy are playing up front). When Reyes plays in his place, they look a much better side.

2) When Beckham is in the England squad, it is always going to be about him. The circus around him is so ridiculous that it couldn’t help but distract the other players. Even when he wasn’t in the squad (when he was suspended, for example) he still seemed to find a way of making it about him (by announcing he had got booked deliberately). He loved being captain and marketed it like no one before him had done. When it comes down to it, it shouldn’t be about him at all, except in his capacity as a player. No one is questioning Beckham’s commitment to England on the pitch, or his dedication to training, but it got out of hand, and it would be again if he was recalled. Can you see Beckham going back into the ranks and keeping his head down and leaving the captain and the new manager to it? I can’t. OK, Hello, Heat and all the rest would be full of it – either from him or from his wife.

3) It was time to move on. Rightly or wrongly, Becks was emblematic of the Sven regime and for English football to move on and move forwards, Becks has to be left behind.

It’s not a question of Beckham being the 3rd, 4th or 5th choice English qualified midfielder, it’s about moving the national side forwards so that we can try to stop underachieving in major tournaments. Who is the future for England? Lennon or Beckham? If the answer is Lennon (or Pennant, or Wright-Phillips or Richardson), then Beckham should not be in the squad.

Beckham is categorically not Zidane, and I think we should be saluting McClaren for taking the bull by the horns and not backing down.

Flash said...

I can't help feeling a bit sentimental about it. He was so close to that 100 caps & back in the mists of time he was a very special member of our team.
I'm sure none of us will ever forget the game against Greece at Old Trafford when he single-handledly turned the game around as he ran himself ragged to get us qualified.
I'll always hold him in high esteem for that match alone.
Alas football & sentiment do not mix.
I find myself agreeing more with Swiss on this one.
It's a shame on some levels but we do have to move forward. Sadly I think Mr. Endorsement as gone as far forward as he can.

adem said...

I don't think McClaren should enforce Beckhams international retirement. I think there is still a place for him although I must admit I was calling for him to be dropped over the past few years.

I don't believe any player should automatically be in the team, and selection should be on current form not on superstar status, which is what happened with Beckham especially when he was made Captain making him impossible to drop.

But if Beckham does get his form up and others are not performing well then I can't see why he can't come back into the team, but we'll have to see if he can fit in again as he is now an outcast.

Ben said...

I'm with Lord B on this one - a well-argued case, and I agree on every point.

Beckham, even low on form, would be a much better bet than the likes of Richardson and Jenas.

And I don't think it's all been about him - it seemed to me that he got on well with the other players, and commanded their respect because he put heart and soul into his efforts for the cause.

I think that after the World Cup Beckham was right to offer his resignation as captain and allow John Terry to do his best - but he's still worth a place in the squad, especially when Lennon's out injured.

El Tel said...

I read McLaren's decision on this one as being about messages - moving the national side forward by emphatically defining the new era as about a team, rather than about one or two individuals, and others. On this, I'm with ST's point 2. Sure, there are other celebrity wives/girlfriends (cf. Mrs Rooney and Mrs Cole) who guarantee a paparazzi entourage, but their circuses are yet to reach the utterly O.T.T. scale of the Beckhams'.

In purely on-the-pitch footballing terms, I agree that Beckham would justify a place in the squad (incidentally, I cannot see Kieran Richardson as a serious long-term England (or Man Utd) prospect). However, there are times when the psychology and signification that follows a particular player are not good for the cause, thus, Mr Beckham must set his sights on the twilight years in US soccer that surely draw near. It's for this same reason that I'm regarding talk of Stan Collymore returning to top-flight football to be a rather sad and desperate idea...

So that'll be Collymore for Boro then.

weenie said...

I've never liked Beckham the celebrity but Beckham as an England player, apart from early blips, has always had my admiration. Worth sticking in the squad at the very least as an option.

adem said...

Great anonymous bloggers!! (BTW if you really want free desktop football then check here.

On another note more related to this post, do you think Beckham would've been a good choice against Macedonia the other night when the game called for some pinpoint crossing? How many times did Downing and Gerrard put appalling crosses in, most not even getting past the defender?

I think he would have been raring to go and would have used it to prove people wrong.

swisslet said...

no. no.

Even after the disaster against Croatia, I still don't believe Beckham is the right way to go. I heard someone on the radio today questioning in what world Scott Parker is a better player than Beckham. What a pointless question. I'd rather have Parker playing at the base of my midfield than Beckham, just as I'd rather have John Terry playing at centre-half than Peter Crouch.

Beckham would not be the answer.

....Unless the question was "name a preening clown".


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