COS contributor Sean Quinn wonders what all the fuss is about?!
When the dust settles on the news of David Beckham’s unfortunate injury, his absence is unlikely to be seen as significantly affecting England’s World Cup prospects. In fact it could even prove to be some kind of blessing.
His experience and deadball skills may well be missed. But the certainty of Beckham’s absence (in contrast to the metatarsal saga of 2002) will now enable Fabio Capello to plan for the tournament without the complication of having to very publicly assess the potential merits of a high profile player who is reduced at the age of 34 to an uncharacteristically peripheral role. Beckham’s absence also offers a schoolboy-dream opportunity for someone to finally make that position on the right side of midfield his own, and in a World Cup too. There has been much debate about the inability of Lennon, Walcott, Wright-Phillips and Bentley to nail that position, and I suspect that Beckham’s enduring presence in the England squad has been a contributory factor. For good-natured as Beckham seems, you don’t play 115 times for England without being ultra competitive. Whether it is by expressing his superior talent in training, or stirring the crowd every time he leaves the substitute’s bench to warm up, Beckham will have cast a long shadow over his rivals. And his absence from the squad could be as liberating to his successor as Roy Keane’s departure from Manchester United seems to have been for the likes of Darren Fletcher.
Curiously enough, as loyal and distinguished a career as he has had with England, Beckham’s three previous World Cup tournament appearances were as notable for his extraordinary ability to attract headlines as for the quality of his play: dropped by Hoddle for the opening game with Tunisia before being sent off against Argentina in 1998; jumping out of the tackle to protect that metatarsal in the buildup to Brazil’s equalizer in the 2002 quarter final; a prominent influence in the WAG culture that threatened to undermine England’s 2006 campaign, amid rumours that he was indulged – to the irritation of other squad members – by a starstruck Sven. If at the peak of his powers his contribution was not what it might have been, we cannot realistically have expected the man now employed by LA Galaxy to have made the critical difference. Nor is it a bad thing for one so synonymous with previous doomed World Cup campaigns – and regimes – to have moved on. World Cup history is made by those who see their chance and take it, many of whom, like Martin Peters, Peter Beardsley and David Platt, were obscure players before the tournament began. David Beckham has had a wonderful career and had his chances, but his time has finally come. The King is dead, long live the king, whoever he may be.