Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Return of Captain Golden Balls

The Return of Captain Golden Balls.
It is possibly the biggest shock in English football this year, perhaps even topping this season’s FA Cup shocks or England’s national sides failure to qualify from what looked like a do-able group.

But when Fabio Capello took over the reigns as England's head coach he told everyone he would do things his way, from the tatics down to picking a new captain after appearing disappointed with the job John Terry had done under Steve McClaren’s stewardship. Today his announcement to give David Beckham the armband he reluctantly released nearly two years ago is the biggest indication yet that Capello is a man of his own will and way. It may be a fairly meaningless friendly in the grand scheme of things but do not underestimate how much this will mean to Beckham, who had tears in his eyes when he stepped down after England’s failure at the last World Cup.

Some had suggested he was pushed by then new head coach Steve McClaren who was looking to make a statement when taking over the side and they might not be far from the truth. Everyone knows McClaren was an unpopular pick who was seen as a number two rather than in charge. McClaren's decision to drop Beckham was supposed to be a sign that no one was safe from this new age. But when McClaren back-tracked and recalled Beckham for England’s qualifier against Estonia it was a sign of weakness that could not be repaired and became just one of many nails McClaren’s coffin in the end.

Many sympathised with Beckham when he stepped down, it had been a poor World Cup for most of the England squad, although reaching the quarter finals was a decent enough effort for any realist who understands football. Those fools who believe England still has a god given right to win every tournament they are involved in it was seen as another epic failure and Beckham was made a scapegoat. His emotional speech in relinquishing the captaincy was meet with a large round of applause by those in the room in respect for all he had done for his country.

Whilst his achievements must be put into context, that ‘goal’ against Greece was seven years ago, his desire to keep going has obviously impressed Capello because after achieving his 101st cap against USA last week he is still in the squad and is still providing those pinpoint free kicks and passes that no doubt give England an extra edge on the international scene. Beckham is now 33 and you imagine that his time on the international scene is going to come to an end sooner rather than later. My only hope is Capello hasn't picked Beckham as captain just to draw some Hollywood glamour to a game which everyone knows England are only playing to gain the vote from CONCAF for their 2018 World Cup bid, which will be pointless if America launches their own bid as that vote will go to the way of our Colonial cousins.

So this takes us to Sunday night’s friendly in the Caribbean which will no doubt be a snooze fest which England will win by the odd goal with no remarkable performances from anyone, including Beckham himself. Some believe that Beckham is only being kept on to pass on his knowledge to those youngsters coming through England’s ranks such as David Bentley, who is tipped to take over from Beckham when he eventually retires. But there has to be the age old question over why Bentley isn't being given a chance to gain more experience in one of these meaningless friendly’s. But again it’s a chance for Capello to see first hand how Beckham handles the role of being captain so as to make a decision over who will become a permanent captain before the World Cup qualifiers start up in September. I for one am happy to see Beckham back wearing the armband because he is one of only a few who demonstrates any passion when playing for their country.

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