David Beckham on Trial

Update: LA Galaxy will rest Beckham on Sunday (from his 4th game in 9 days) to help heal his ankle injury and prepare for Wednesday’s Superliga game (BBC)

Beckham’s public profile means that his every move is over-analysed, criticised and beaten to a bloody death by biased, uninformed hacks who are either putting down a famous person (and getting their kicks out of it) or pining away in romantic optimism, with flagrant disregard of the facts.

What are the facts then?

  • David Beckham cannot manage playing in England friendlies – his health will suffer and his performance levels definitely did drop on his return to LA Galaxy for his 2 game in 30 hours and 3rd in 5 days. In the future, he’ll face two blocks of 4 games in 9 days and a block of 7 games in 21 days.

    That will place an unbelievable amount of stress on his body and even if you discount the effects of traveling on his health, playing so much in such a short period of time is going to be tough for a 32-year old carrying an ankle injury.

  • At 32, Beckham lacks the pace to trouble most oppositions and does not have a long-term future with England – he can, at best, work as a backup option or an experienced head to turn to if England are in a crisis (right now he’s fulfilling both roles).
  • His future therefore lies with LA Galaxy, and he has a strong vested interested in seeing LA Galaxy succeed, and that can only happen if he gives 100% performance-wise every single time.
  • Beckham is very strong mentally and it’s quite likely that as long as he doesn’t break down and suffers such a serious injury that he can’t walk, he’ll take the injections and keep on going. This means that if he’s playing for England against Israel you’re not likely to see a Beckham at 100% – heck, until that ankle knock gets properly healed he’s not going to play 100%, period.
  • A fully-fit Beckham deserves a spot in the England squad and even in the presence of Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips he’s good enough to start. If he’s unfit, he should sit on the bench or just play one half, preferably the first one.

When McClaren dropped David Beckham the biggest problem I had with that decision was that Macca had kicked out a matchwinner without adding another matchwinner to the starting XI. At this point, an unfit Beckham is not going to do as well in dead-ball situations and the quality of his crossing and passing will suffer as well (and he’ll keep drifting inside because his lack of pace combined with a hurting ankle makes it impossible for him to run along the touchline, where he can be marked out quite easily unless he has a good right-back like Richards overlapping).

Beckham needs to get fit for Galaxy, and for England. Unfortunately, he can’t do both. If England qualify, I’d like to see Becks at Euro 2008 but in either case his time at England is nearing to an end, partially because he can’t keep up the same level of performances as he juggles two continents and because if he’s not a matchwinner, he’s a liability to England.

And whatever happens, he’ll be a constant target for journalists because they love to build up celebrities and they love to tear celebrities down. Nothing to do with his football, unfortunately.