Beckham’s playing days for England appear done
Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter at @mrogersyahoo
One of the most high-profile international careers of all time came to a low-key end on Wednesday as the world found out that David Beckham won’t play for England again thanks to a few mumbled words on a television broadcast.
England head coach Fabio Capello blurted out his decision to part ways with Beckham during an interview ahead of his team’s 2-1 victory over 62nd-ranked Hungary in an exhibition game. In every way, it was an inappropriate time, and an inopportune method, of delivering the news.
Beckham, and the English public, deserved better.
“I say thank you very much for helping me at the World Cup but probably he is a little bit old,” said Capello, when questioned on ITV whether Beckham would play a role in qualifying for the 2012 European Championships.
Beckham’s dream of appearing in four World Cups was dashed earlier this year when his left Achilles was shredded while playing for AC Milan during a loan spell from the Los Angeles Galaxy. Instead, he was on the sideline in South Africa, as an assistant to Capello during England’s ill-fated and ultimately disastrous campaign.
He finishes with 115 England appearances to his name, 10 short of the all-time England leader Peter Shilton, but more than any other outfield player.
It was a figure he never looked like reaching when he was temporarily ditched in 2006, but once he had come back into the fold it should have been several more. Because now, more than ever, England needs Beckham. Not for his speed or his crossing or even those trademark free kicks.
The World Cup performance of Capello’s players was disjointed, spiritless and quite frankly, pathetic. Over the course of four equally unconvincing displays the squad proved that while it was, and still is, packed with high quality players, there is no cohesion. Wednesday’s clash with Hungary did little to allay those suspicions.
That is where Beckham can have an impact, as a leader by example. Whereas the England team – at least according to British public perception – is an overpaid and arrogant bunch, Beckham is still loved and admired. He is a senior role model who has never shirked the responsibility that comes with representing a nation, despite an endless stream of fame and money.
That is why Capello wanted him in the squad in the first place, despite having so many other midfield options to choose from. And it is why he should keep him now, instead of consigning him to the international scrapheap.
Capello was supposed to be the man with the Midas touch but everything he touches in English soccer turns to mud.
Cutting off the international career of Beckham is just his latest folly in a long line of missteps.
Whatever you make of Beckham, whether you admire his celebrity lifestyle or curse him for it, whether you agree with his fashion sense or style, one thing can never be called into question: He’s never shied away from England duty, never considered it as a given or as something less important than lucrative club soccer.
Even his controversially manipulated loan move to AC Milan two years ago came about because of his desire to prolong his England career. He paid a hefty financial price for it too, with a reworked contract that cut his earnings but allowed him to play his way into the England setup again before injury intervened.
Representing your nation is a privilege and Beckham knew that better than anyone. England, and by extension Capello, owes no one any special perks. A place in the squad must be earned. But with England going through tortured times, Beckham’s personality still carries enough weight and makes him a valuable asset, especially in a locker room utterly devoid of character.
Capello, though, took another path, and David Beckham’s England days are done.