BALTIMORE – David Beckham's bid to earn his 100th international cap has been given the stamp of approval by former England manager Steve McClaren.
Beckham has made no secret of his desperation to join an elite group of England players to have reached the century mark and hopes to be selected by new boss Fabio Capello against Switzerland on February 6.
The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder's national team future was called into question once McClaren was fired following the England's failure to qualify for the 2008 European Championships.
The UK press speculated that Capello may prefer to start with a clean slate and look to the future by bringing in a youngster like David Bentley on the right side of midfield. Yet there is a strong level of public support for Beckham to be given the chance to stand alongside legends such as Peter Shilton, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Billy Wright by getting to three figures.
"I sincerely hope he gets it," said McClaren, following a presentation he gave at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention on Thursday. "He deserves it. He has worked hard, and he would have achieved it already but for injuries.
"It's a friendly, he knows the manager and I think the whole country would like to see it."
McClaren was the man who looked to have ended Beckham's days of representing his country when he dropped him from the team after the 2006 World Cup in Germany. However, a string of poor results by England, combined with Beckham's improved form for Real Madrid, led to a recall last year.
Now it is likely that Capello, who is looking for a period of stability as he begins his new position, will retain Beckham – at least for the time being.
The two worked together in Madrid and, despite a bitter falling-out when it was revealed Beckham would be moving to Major League Soccer, they ended on excellent terms. Capello will always be grateful for Beckham's late-season performances that lifted Real Madrid to the La Liga title in 2007.
As for the Galaxy, they may be somewhat less than delighted at seeing their most high-profile and experienced player regularly disappearing for international duty, but it does the club's image no harm to have an England regular in their squad.
McClaren admitted he was astounded by the attendance levels at the convention, which will host around 12,000 coaches from around the country over the next few days. He is optimistic for the North American game and believes Beckham can play a crucial role in raising its popularity further.
"I said to David, 'It's a like a second signing,' " McClaren asid. "You've had the furor of him coming over off the field. Now you're going to see David Beckham on the field. I think that can only be good for Major League Soccer.
"Who knows how far things could go here in the future? With David Beckham coming here, the profile in England has shot well up.
"There's still a lot of developing to do. But knowing the Americans, they're ambitious, and they know what they want to do and what they're doing. And they're trying very, very hard to make MLS attractive."