Saturday, June 16, 2007
The comparison of the MLS to the old “Third Division South” is a little unfair (and it’s amusing to note, in passing, that the calamitous embarrassment of the 1950 World Cup still rankles with the Poms), but there’s certainly a point to the analogy.
Steve McLaren’s ditching of David Beckham so early on in his tenure seemed to be a statement of intent rather than any comment on Beckham’s form, or his usefulness to the national side. Although he was hardly at his best, it’s worth remembering that if not for Beckham’s right foot, England might have struggled to get out of the first round at the World Cup.
Following Beckham’s resuscitation at Real Madrid, McLaren has come back, hat in hand, and brought him back into the fold – with immediate results. That hasn’t stopped Brian Glanville having his usual literate spray, though…
The story of Tommy Lawton may be a salutary one, but to my mind, there is a more telling comparison: the move to the old North American Soccer League by the great Franz Beckenbauer, some thirty years ago.
The parallels are obvious. Both in their early thirties. Both icons in their respective countries. Both purportedly aiming to spread the good word in the United States, rather than just collecting one last fat paycheck before hanging up the boots. And both still very much in the plans of their respective international managers.
In a recent interview, Beckenbauer detailed, with some derision, the efforts that were made to lure him back into the (West) German side for the 1978 World Cup. Again, there are some echoes of McLaren’s recall of Beckham (although, of course, the latter hasn’t crossed the Atlantic just yet).
The fact that there is already talk of a loan deal to a European club, should the LA Galaxy fail to make the MLS playoffs, surely indicates that Beckham still has international ambitions. Not that England is likely to win a major tournament any time soon, but some of his best (and worst) moments have come in games for country rather than club.
Easily the best game I’ve ever seen Beckham play was the 2-2 draw with Greece that sent England to the 2002 World Cup. To borrow a phrase from Beckenbauer, if you’d put everyone in the England team that day, bar Beckham, into a sack and then hit it, you’d have got someone who deserved it.
There is one clear difference between the two players. Beckenbauer had nothing more to achieve when he went west; he’d won the World Cup and the European Nations Cup, and had racked up a hat-trick of European Cup triumphs with Bayern Munich. Continuing to turn out for Helmut Schoen’s West Germany side was clearly pretty low on his list of priorities.
But Beckham is clearly keen to continue representing his country – and it could make his American sojourn even more problematic than it already appears to be.
Mind you, I think Glanville has gone over the top this time. For my money, given the form Beckham was in at Real Madrid, McLaren was right to bring him back. It's just a question of whether McLaren will become obsessed with including him regardless of form, as SGE did.
Anyway I agree that BG is over the top this time. Becks is a one-trick pony but it's not a bad trick to have up your sleeve. He deserves his place in the England team at the moment. Whether he deserves to keep it is another matter.
Keep up the good work with the blog Mikey, always love reading it. Your GK's moving off the line piece deserved more comment - it drives me crazy to see that rule openly flaunted so often.
I am off to Zurich. I shall say hi to Sepp for you if I see him on the Bahnhofstrasse.
If you come across Blatter in Zurich, just say "Hey isn't that Thomas Hildbrand over there?". That should get an interesting reaction. ;-)
I watched a tape of Man Utd's 1998-1999 season review awhile ago and it's also quite telling. In that side you had Cole and Yorke functioning brilliantly off each other up front, Giggs and Scholes attacking from midfield and a much younger G. Neville overlapping. So many of Beckham's crosses which lead to goals that season came after the defence was dragged towards the middle, left or to the by-line by his aforementioned team-mates and he got the ball and crossed without being closely marked.
With England it's been a different story. Particularly in recent years he's been closely marked and obviously hasn't had the pace or trickery to create his space himself.
Beckham does deserve his place in England's team IMO but it would be interesting to see your earlier suggestion tested out - Beckham at right-back (with G. Neville getting on and having injury troubles) and a genuine winger like Lennon on the right wing. But it's never going to happen. There doesn't seem to be the imagination and bravery in the England setup to seriously consider it. And many seem to have sort of given up on Lennon for the time being after he didn't produce the goods when played so much on the left wing this season for Spurs.
At this stage England have almost the exact same line-up and problems from Germany 2006, but the sensation of Beckham's return has glossed over it.
An act of extreme desperation, by a poor manager.
I would much rather have seen an England team picked for age, say betweeen 21 and 25 than have Beckham play again. Building for 2010 is more important than 2006. Give me the Klinnsman ethic anyday: not afraid to lose whilst playing attractive football.
Besides, I don't want half of the Spurs squad to be shagged out for the start of the 2008-09 season.