Sunday, August 13, 2006


Bye Bye Becks, Part 1

It was amusing to see, on World Soccer’s website, a lead story dealing with the absence of David Beckham from Steve McLaren’s first England squad displayed just above Brian Glanville’s misprint-ridden weekly column. The latter began “The day I’ll begin to believe in Steve McClaren as a valid England manager will be the day he drops David Beckham...”.

McLaren will surely have to do more than just this to live up to Glanville’s always stringent standards. The move is, in any case, largely symbolic: a break from the Eriksson era, in which the England side were far too reliant on the Real Madrid man.

England scored six goals at the World Cup, and Beckham was centrally involved in four of them. His precise set-pieces proved the ultimate undoing of both Paraguay and Ecuador, and his devilishly accurate crossing helped to subdue the brave Trinidadians. But he inhibits England’s style, when used in his preferred right midfield role; without him, there will surely be more emphasis on speed down the flanks.

Beckham has had an interesting international career. It is greatly to his credit that he rescued his reputation after the disaster of 1998, when his hot-headedness compelled his side to cling on against Argentina with ten men for so long. An inspirational performance in England’s final qualifier for the 2002 tournament, in which the rest of his team played abysmally, won over many of his erstwhile critics: England’s qualification, famously, was achieved via one of Beckham’s sumptuous free-kicks.

He was less than devastating at the tournament itself, but this was mainly due to a serious injury he had suffered a couple of months prior to the event; not for the first time, he was perhaps brought back into action with undue haste. At least he had the satisfaction of revenge against Argentina, though.

Then came 2004, and the missed penalties. The rumblings of discontent, dormant for so long, began to resurface; to make matters worse, some new options for England’s right midfield position were emerging. Shaun Wright-Phillips was clearly a worthy candidate for the role, and soon afterwards Aaron Lennon joined the list.

It didn’t help, either, that Beckham had chosen to pursue his career outside the Premiership. There has always been an ambivalent (at best) attitude to foreign-based players wearing the three lions, as the case of Owen Hargreaves has shown only too plainly.

In the next instalment, an analysis of Beckham’s performance at Germany 2006 – and a possible new use for him at international level in the future.

Hmmm, lemme guess...deep-lying playmaker ala Pirlo. He certainly has the passing ability, and even the vision. Just that he needs a ball-winner or two alongside him and this will force England to go to either one striker (doesn't suit Rooney), or robbing their wings which might be a more natural solution as there isn't a whole lot of depth out there anyway.
...Hmmm, lemme guess...deep-lying playmaker ala Pirlo....

I won't give anything away... ;-)

TBH, I think the Poms do have some good options out wide (Lennon, Wright-Phillips, Downing). The whole problem with having Becks on the right is that he can't really get past his fullback, so you don't have any of the typical "winger" options.
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