Steve McClaren’s move to axe David Beckham from the England squad was an inevitable decision on two fronts.
First, McClaren is building a team that can effectively challenge for Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010. At 31, Beckham is too old to be guaranteed a starting place in Austria and Switzerland come 2008, and it makes sense to drop him now.
Second, McClaren is very astute when it comes to manage his PR (if you remember how his personal affairs were handled in the news a few months ago, you’ll know what I mean). The pressure was on him to distance himself from Eriksson and regardless of his motivations, Beckham’s omission will be credited in part to McClaren’s desire to start on the right foot and to get the media on his side.
What I haven’t seen in the media is an account of why this decision was wrong. Not the decision to drop him from the squad, but the decision to drop him from the squad that is named for the Greece friendly.
It’s no secret that a number of England’s first-team players are missing through injury and suspension. Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen are all out due to injuries, while the United duo of Ferdinand and Neville may not play because of recent knocks.
With 5 first-teamers out, it is obvious that the squad will be changed when the first qualifier swings by will be different – Ferdinand and Cole would be hoping to return while Rooney will definitely return after serving out his suspension. With those squad changes in mind, would it not make sense to play David Beckham against Greece, and then drop him latter?
England play Greece on August 16 at Old Trafford – if you are going to drop a player of Beckham’s stature, let him at least play in England’s colours for one last time against his home crowd.
Sentimentality is dangerous, but we’re talking about a player who was one of England’s best players at the 2006 World Cup and was directly responsible for England’s 3 wins – including helping them win 2 of those 3 matches single-handedly.
Beckham never was, nor could he be, a great captain. And while his departure from Manchester United hurt the club more than Ferguson would care to admit, Beckham’s departure from the England setup is a good thing.
Ruthlessness be damned – as an England player, David Beckham deserves a proper farewell. McClaren’s statement that the door is still open for Beckham amounts to a diplomatic slap on his face. Don’t leave Becks hanging – give him a chance to say goodbye to England and Old Trafford, and then send him home.
After all, we have the World Cup to win, and Becks won’t be there for us in 2010.