When I first heard about David Beckham’s ruptured Achilles tendon on Sunday night, I was sad for the player but didn’t feel the need to comment on it here on the blog, given his peripheral role as a player in the
set-up. However, looking at the minor frenzy which has been whipped up in the media over the past 36 hours, you would think we had just witnessed the England air disaster. Munich
Before the revisionists completely rewrite history, let’s be absolutely clear about Beckham’s position in the World Cup mix prior to his injury.
Was Fabio Capello going to include him in his 23-man squad? Almost certainly. There were certainly strong arguments for having him present both on the pitch (as an impact substitute) and off it (for his experience and influence in the dressing room). To my mind, these outweighed the potential distraction of the circus which inevitably follows wherever Beckham goes.
If he had gone, would Beckham ever have made the starting XI? Certainly not, unless
were to suffer an injury crisis of apocalyptic proportions over the next few weeks. To fill the right winger’s position, one of Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott or Shaun Wright-Phillips will be the starter in South Africa, with probably one taken as backup and one left to bemoan his misfortune on a beach somewhere. And with Steven Gerrard and James Milner also well capable of playing wide right, England are more than adequately covered with speedy, dynamic players who can run for 90 minutes in a way Beckham no longer can. Similarly, the squad will also be well-stocked with central midfielders, the other area where Beckham could have played a role. England
David Beckham was never going to be more than a bit-part player at this summer’s World Cup. That’s not to say his role might not have been a significant one: you never know when one of his trademark free kicks could have been needed to settle a tight game late on. But England are hardly bereft of players who can strike a mean dead ball: Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Milner and Gareth Barry can all strike a ball with plenty of pace, bend and accuracy. And then there is the list of injured or ailing players whose status I am far more concerned about than Beckham’s: Ashley Cole, Lennon, Rio Ferdinand …
Is Beckham’s injury the end of the world? No. Does it dent
England’s chances in ? A bit. Is Capello’s squad now holed below the waterline and devoid of all hope? Give me a break. South Africa
If some corners of the media are whipping up a storm about Beckham, what will they do if Wayne Rooney suffers a season-ending injury? Will we have a national day of mourning and withdraw from the tournament completely?
Never mind the World Cup, a ruptured Achilles is a serious and potentially career-threatening injury. At 34 – and turning 35 before the World Cup begins – Beckham faces an extremely long and tough road back. Without the possibility of going out on the biggest stage of all you have to wonder whether he will decide to bring down the curtain on a career which has brought him 115 caps for his country, many team and personal triumphs, and only last week brought him back to Old Trafford for a cameo appearance where he was given a hero’s welcome.
David Beckham has never been the retiring type when it comes to publicity, but surely now it is time to seriously contemplate retirement.