Fabio Capello has told David Beckham he is still welcome to join the England squad for their trip to South Africa in the summer. The Three Lions boss has invited Becks to be a guest at the squad’s training base in Rustenburg, despite the fact that the 34-year-old midfielder has ruptured his left Achilles tendon and will be unable to play until September.
The former Manchester United star underwent a successful operation in Turku, Finland, yesterday but Doctors have said that it will be four months before he can begin training and six months until he is ready to play top-level football again. So, if Beckham does make an appearance at the World Cup it will be in a non-playing capacity – but is it really a good idea for Capello to take the former England captain at all now? Unquestionably, Becks could provide a valuable fountain of calmness, experience and knowledge – especially for the younger members of the squad – but would his presence now actually do more harm than good? Will the frenzied media interest Golden Balls is bound to spark be a hindrance to the players? You could also argue that this media spotlight would actually take the pressure away from the playing staff and that Beckham has much to offer, even if he isn’t able to don the England shirt himself. Ian Wright certainly thinks so. In his column in The Sun the former Arsenal striker made a plea to Beckham, urging him to accept Capello’s offer. Wrighty talked about his regret at missing out on the 1998 World Cup because of injury and would hate Becks to find himself in the same position.
He said: “I ended up commentating during the tournament – and that was a massive mistake as I still desperately wanted to be there, to be among the players, to feel part of the whole experience – instead of being on the outside looking in. I urge you not to make that same mistake, David. If, as seems to be the case, Fabio Capello asks you to join his squad, then seize the chance to be involved in something so special.
“Even if you were only a glorified cheerleader, it’s where you belong and where you need to be, as someone who cares so passionately. I actually think there’s so much advice you can give to lads struggling with form, or missing their families back home. You’ve been there, done that, and have so much knowledge and experience – probably more than you even realise. The younger players in the squad in particular all look up to you, David, and a quiet word from you can have a very big impact. You could be a massive influence around the training pitch, too. You’re not telling me you couldn’t give some decent advice about taking free-kicks and corners. Who wouldn’t respect your opinion?”
So is Wright correct? Should Becks still travel to South Africa and help the Three Lions emerge victorious? Or should he now step aside and accept that his unfortunate injury will result in him watching and supporting the boys from afar? You only had to watch the Finnish media frantically trying to catch a glimpse of Beckham as he went for his operation yesterday to understand the frenzy of attention Beckham will attract in South Africa. This circus will have to be put up with though and Capello’s decision just goes to show how highly valued Beckham is – even when his glorious right foot isn’t in use.
Two of our columnists at FFC, Mark Turner and Oscar Pye-Jeary, were invited to discuss this Beckham debate on Sky News last night…