Having succumbed to an achilles injury suffered during AC Milan’s clash with Chievo at the weekend, David Beckham has had his chances of representing England at a record fourth World Cup dashed.
While there were doubts about his inclusion in the England squad before, Beckham’s injury has mutilated the debate into whether or not he will be missed by England as they hope to go all the way in South Africa this summer.
Since David Beckham first appeared in an England shirt against Moldova on September 1st 1996, he has proven himself, time and time again, as a player who is not only gifted, but one that never, ever assumes his gift will be all that is required of him. His work rate and passion for the game form a shining example to all who play with him and all who aspire to follow in his footsteps. Such a player is a huge asset to any team, even if they are not to be named in a match-day squad, because their attitude rubs off on those around them, especially the young, impressionable players who will surely face some of the problems Beckham has encountered in his career.
When talking of the influence Beckham can have over his young peers, we must look at the players that have been competing with him for the number seven shirt since he handed over the captain’s armband following England’s exit from the 2006 World Cup – where he was one of few players who actually played well for the team. Since that day, none of the players chosen have performed well consistently on the right flank for England. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Theo Walcott, David Bentley and Aaron Lennon have all played there, and all played well, but only for one game at a time, two at most. The only player who could realistically step into Beckham’s boots at the moment is James Milner. He is actually a better player than Beckham – two footed, skilful, has a work-rate to match Beckham’s and is almost as technically gifted – but he isn’t being played in the wide-right position for his country, perhaps due to playing so well in central midfield for his club, Aston Villa, and/or his ability with his left foot.
While, at 34, someone of Beckham’s age would usually be lucky to even be selected for a friendly, given the choice Fabio Capello has on the right-wing. In Beckham’s unique case though, age is barely worth mentioning, because of the way that he plays, and has always played, his football. His game has never been about explosive pace or quick feet. He has plied his trade at the highest level relying on that gifted right foot, one of the most precise feet in world football, and his unrelenting work rate. These powers still refuse to wane. Beckham remains deadly from set-pieces and all opposing teams know it. When England get a free kick or corner in the 2010 World Cup, every English person will wish that Beckham was taking it.
If Beckham could barely kick a ball, he would still be worth a shirt in the 23 man England squad this summer. The fact that Beckham was still competing for a place at AC Milan before his injury only confirms that any England side without him is a depleted one.
Oh, and does anyone really need reminding of that Greece game?
No matter how England do at the World Cup, the thought of how they could have done with David Beckham there too will always be in everyone’s minds. If they crash out, as per usual, many will say Beckham would have offered the missing ingredient that would have ensured success. If, however, England surprise us all and win the World Cup, even then, people will wonder what difference Beckham’s inclusion would have made. And maybe, hopefully, think that lifting the World Cup would have been a fitting send-off for such a great role model.