You have to wonder what David Beckham’s new Tottenham team-mates will make of his very modern transfer. With Spurs on the brink of great things in both the Premier League and Europe, Harry Redknapp’s players could be forgiven for wondering why on Earth the club are bringing in this fading matinee idol. Beckham’s loan deal will be a move without any responsibility on either side. He’s a footballer, so they tell me, but he is not actually likely to play much football for Spurs.
I know he is a lovely bloke, I know he’s been good for English football and I know that he has strong family links with Tottenham – his late grandfather, apparently, used to watch me play during the 1960s. But let’s face it, Beckham is a male model, a poseur – and he plays like one. His time at Spurs will include little more than a few cameo roles, pinging a few long crossfield balls, maybe the occasional free-kick for old time’s sake, then standing back and admiring himself.
There was a time when, no matter how good a player or how big a name you were, you always had to earn the respect of your fellow pros when you moved clubs. Back in 1961, Spurs broke the British record to sign me from AC Milan for £99,999, but that didn’t mean my new team-mates were standing on their chairs and greeting me with a fanfare. The previous season, Spurs had become the first club in the 20th century to win the League and FA Cup Double, so they didn’t exactly feel as though they needed me!
I remember walking into the dressing room to be met with stony glares and the reserve-team captain Johnny Smith greeting me with the words: “Ooh, here SHE comes!” I thought : “Oh s***, this isn’t going to be easy – they reckon I’m a right ponce and that I’m going to upset the applecart.” Luckily for me, I was able to ease myself in with a reserve match at Plymouth which involved an overnight stay and a couple of jars with senior pros like Terry Dyson and Mel Hopkins, who must have told the others I wasn’t so bad after all.
You can be sure, though, that many of Tottenham’s players will have been watching Beckham swanning around this week in his Great Gatsby cap, acting like Tom Cruise, and thinking ‘what the hell are the club up to?’ It’s not as if Spurs are crying out for midfield creativity. With Rafa van der Vaart, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon they are chock-full of it. I think Redknapp, and Beckham himself, are too cute to allow the media circus to disrupt Tottenham’s campaign. Many of Tottenham’s English players will have been with Beckham in the national set-up and probably know that he enjoys just being one of the lads.
The closest thing I can remember to Beckham’s move is when George Best went to Fulham in the Second Division in the 1970s, along with Rodney Marsh – and the pair of them treated Craven Cottage to some showbusiness, without taking their football too seriously. Had Ronaldinho joined Blackburn Rovers, we could have had an even more bizarre transfer this January, yet for some reason, the former World Footballer of the Year didn’t want to swap his bandana for a Lancashire flat cap.
Beckham, of course, would have turned a flat cap, a whippet and a Woodbine into a major fashion statement had he chosen Ewood Park. As a Spurs man, I genuinely hope his little stint in north London is successful. Apparently even his wife’s family are Spurs fans. So perhaps when hubby steps off the bench at White Hart Lane, she’ll even give us a smile. Stranger things have happened. Not many, though.