David Beckham: The Great Debate - Should He Have a Future With England?
"The dream is over" - John Lennon
Yesterday, in a pre-match interview before England took on Hungary in one of the most notorious fixtures in English football history, manager Fabio Capello appeared to call time on the international career of David Beckham.
After 115 caps, 17 goals, and a career spanning 14 years, it seems we may have seen the last of Beckham in an England shirt, depending on whether Capello's plans to give him a "farewell match" materialise.
Capello gave his view that Beckham was "a little bit old" to be in his thinking for the "new" England that will hopefully rise from the ashes of the dismal World Cup display.
In a sense, it is a positive thing that Capello is looking to the future.
The Hungary match saw the likes of Adam Johnson, Joe Hart, Kieran Gibbs, and Jack Wilshere get a run out, four players who look like they could be instrumental in England's future.
However, we should be careful not to forget the past. Yes, England's World Cup performance was woeful, but ringing the changes completely is not, in my opinion, the answer.
Certainly, telling a player the door is now closed on his international career is something that Capello was always adamant he would never do.
Should David Beckham have a future with England?
When the speculation over Michael Owen's future was raging, Capello ensured the striker that the door was always open. Play well enough and you will get a place.
The same criteria should apply for Beckham.
Personally, I don't think Beckham is "too old" to play for England. If you're playing well enough, and of course we must wait to see how Beckham recovers from his latest injury, then age shouldn't matter.
Yes, England had a distinct lack of pace in the World Cup, but Beckham has played 115 times for his country and never has he been selected on the grounds of his speed. He offers so much more to the team.
He offers a range of passing that can only be matched by Steven Gerrard, dead ball skills that can't be matched by anyone, and a wealth of experience in regards to matters both on and off the field.
The fact remains, though, that Beckham is now 35. By the time the 2012 European Championships come along, assuming England qualify, he will be 37.
I fully understand Capello's decision to build for the future. Giving the youngsters a chance now will ensure that, by the time Euro 2012 comes along, they are fully equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of international football.
Is 37 too old to play in an international tournament? Well, Capello took the 39-year-old David James to the World Cup and, if you're looking at outfield players, Fabio Cannavaro of Italy played at the ripe old age of 36.
Once again, if you're good enough then age shouldn't be an obstacle.
Certainly, I think Beckham has been an unfair casualty of England's World Cup failure.
So should Beckham have a future with England? In my opinion, yes, providing he turns in performances worthy of a place in the squad.
The great Stanley Matthews played for England past his 42nd birthday, and even at the age of 50 was still turning in performances worthy of an international place.
The next issue I'd like to debate was whether Capello was right to take it upon himself to break the news to Beckham via a TV interview.
It has come to light that England general manager Franco Baldini alerted Beckham to the interview before it was aired, but wouldn't it have been better if Capello had broken the news himself?
After being such a loyal servant to England and enjoying arguably the most spectacular and memorable England career ever, surely he deserved to be told by Capello himself.
Beckham was part of the backroom staff in South Africa and, in the back of his mind, Capello must have known that he would have to change things as England's tournament unravelled.
Why not tell Beckham in South Africa? Even if the Italian wasn't sure then, he could have told the ex-England captain his preliminary thoughts.
One more thing that has puzzled me about Capello's statement was that he intends to give Beckham a farewell match at Wembley, a chance for the fans to say "thank you."
Does he deserve it? Unquestionably in my eyes. But others have deserved it and not gotten it.
Billy Wright, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, and Peter Shilton are four of the greatest players to have donned the three lions, and they all held England appearance records when they finally hung up their boots, as Beckham does, yet none received a specific farewell match.
But what surprises me most about this match is that Capello has never shown a hint of sentiment before, yet in this case he is, particularly if this match comes in a competitive fixture.
Football is a harsh game and there is no room for such sentiment when the result matters. Capello seems very much from that school of thought, so I find it very surprising that he has said he could play Beckham once more just so fans can say goodbye.
It would take a brave man to count Beckham out. He has come back more times than I can remember, but on this occasion his number may well and truly be up.
He won't go down without a fight. He refuses to retire and will strive to win his place back yet again, but this could be the end of Beckham's illustrious international career.
If that is the case, let me just say thank you.
Thank you for giving everything and more to your country's cause, thank you for never turning your back on your country even when we had turned our back on you, and thanks for the memories.
Thank you David Beckham—a true England legend.
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