by Thomas Rooney
When David Beckham moved to LA Galaxy it was thought that he had left behind his international career. However, he was recalled by England in May 2007 and has been back in the fold ever since. If Beckham thought he would never play for England again, he certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of captaining his country again.
To many people’s surprise though, Beckham did just that in the recent friendly against Trinidad and Tobago. Not only has Becks been constantly preferred ahead of David Bentley by new England coach Fabio Capello, but he has had the honour of reliving the six years in which he wore the armband. Fair enough it was against a poor side in a meaningless game, but it is a feeling that Becks didn’t think he would get the chance to experience again.
Now onto my main point – Beckham’s ‘right’ to be in the England side. One thing needs to be made clear first – the standard of Major League Soccer, in which Becks is competing, is poor. It is Championship level at best and won’t truly be testing Beckham’s abilities. Carl Robinson and Jim Brennan who weren’t good enough by a long shot for Norwich are stars over in the states. Danny Dichio (yes, that is the 33-year-old former Millwall striker) is the top goalscorer in the MLS. Is this really the standard of football one of England’s first choice midfielders should be playing?
The short answer is no, and I think Beckham knows that. Had he thought that he still had a future for England I’m not sure he would have gone across the pond. Now he has, I think he is still good enough to warrant a place in the squad – just. I don’t think he should be starting. As a country we are looking towards the 2010 World Cup and Becks will be 35 by then. He might not even be in the squad let alone the starting line up. So why not give Bentley or Ashley Young a run in the side? They are the players who will be around in 2010 and will gain a lot more than Beckham will. He has nothing to prove.
The reason he has been playing, I think, could be based on non football reasons. Beckham, as we all know, sells tickets. He is one of the most famous men in the world and every team England plays will be hoping Becks is involved. You would bet on England being more appealing as a football nation when Becks is part of it. Considering we are looking to host the 2018 World cup, it is in the FA’s interest to make sure that Beckham is involved as much as possible.
The recent game against Trinidad highlights this. This long trip after a long season for England’s players was scheduled in an attempt to curry favour with Fifa vice-president Jack Warner. In what was a weakened England line-up it was crucial that Beckham was making the trip to give more publicity to team and the World Cup bid.
Beckham was given a heroes reception during training in the Caribbean and for him to lead out England would, in Jack Warner’s eyes, perfectly mark the centenary of football in Trinidad and Tobago. A good way to ‘make nice’ you might say.
Like I have said before, I am not totally against Beckham being in the England squad. However, I have some issues with the potentially non-football reasons he is starting games ahead of the next generation of right midfielders. It will be interesting to see whether he is still in starting eleven when World Cup qualification starts. That might depend on how the bid to host the 2018 tournament is going.