“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – The immortal words of Mark Twain – Author, humorist, philanthropist, skeptic and renowned wit. Not the person you’d immediately associate with David Beckham. In fact I’d be mightily impressed if our Dave could identify a picture Twain and not feel perplexed as to why he wasn’t on a bucket of Chicken. Yet this saying, and more accurately it’s often misquoted version – mistaken from an influenced song title – “Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated” is as apt as any to describe the later career of England’s flagship sportsman.
Beckham was being written off when Wayne Rooney was still suckling at the breast of a middle-aged scouser. So about 2003. Sir Alex Ferguson pulled off a masterstroke by replacing him with an unknown Portuguese, but owed this far more to luck than judgment, as the decision was made well after Beckham had left. In fact were it not for the kind hand of fate striking in a pre-Season friendly with Sporting Lisbon, Ferguson may been left to rue the day he considered Beckham surplus, because the player was far from through, winning plaudits and fans in Spain despite the relative failure of the Galactico project. When Madrid finally did prize back La Liga from Barcelona, it was the re-call of Beckham that many considered the crucial play.
Twice now he’s been dropped form the England set up, and twice he’s fought his way back in, often proving influential in the process, much to the eternal chagrin of Alan Green.
People even wrote him off in ‘98 after his (massively exaggerated) crime against Argentina, believing he’d never play in England again, let alone captain the side. Even yours truly sat uncomfortably on Sky News less than a year ago on behalf of this very site proudly proclaiming that Becks’ “career at the top level was over” after his Achilles injury playing for Milan in March. And yet here he stands, on the brink of a move back to the Premier League, still one of – if not the – best deliverers of a football in the world.
The man has made a career out of proving people wrong, and people have made their careers off the back of slating him.
And because of this there’s still a deficit in the accurate appraisal of his talent. Like so many who are over hyped at one point or another, the back-lash of underrating is inevitable, but for Beckham this constant tussle has seemed to go on forever, without ever settling on an accurate assessment.
Because he was once overrated, and famously, the idea that he’s not actually, and never has been anywhere near as good as his legend suggests is common place. And it’s utter rubbish. He was twice voted runner up for World Player of the Year, not by the English press but by the managers and captains of actual football teams.
While it’s popular legend at Manchester United to claim Beckham’s seizing of Ryan Giggs’ pin up mantle was due to the latter’s modesty and the former’s love of fame, the real reason is ever so slightly closer to the truth that Beckham was better than Giggs for most of the eight years they shared in the first team – Something the Welshman’s Indian summer has all but glossed over in United lore.
When he retired from the captaincy of England after World Cup 2006, his reputation took a bettering, yet he scored or created half of all of England’s goals at that tournament. Even though it seemed an off form Beckham was still more influential than the rest of the side, he was still made the scapegoat (once the tabloids had stopped throwing jingoistic puns the way of the very unknown Portuguese who’d replaced him.)
I once read an article by Alan Hansen (No I’m not sure why either) that suggested Beckham would never be a “great” player because he’d never influenced the very biggest games, a belief which contradicts not only his World Cup Record (he’s scored in three tournaments) but also that both United’s winning goals in their 1999 Champions League Final triumph came from Beckham corners. Hansen – the very first to doubt and be proven wrong by Beckham when he claimed “you never win anything with kids” – should’ve know this, but with Beckham people have their opinions (either way) and stick to them, the facts are irrelevant.
His SPOTY Lifetime achievement Award was a mistake. No player should receive one whilst they’re still playing, and there were many who deserved it more than Beckham, but once again the bitterness and re-writing that often accompanies any Beckham appraisal was in full force amongst those only too happy to point this out.
So now that we’ve established that I like David Beckham, where does this leave us, and him, now? If he were to sign for Spurs how good a move would it transpire to be for both?
At first glance it doesn’t seem that encouraging for Spurs fans. With City splashing big again on rising stars like Edin Dzeko, Tottenham look a little off the pace going for Beckham and (if reports are true) Everton’s dodgy haired World Cup flop Steven Pienaar. Pienaar is a Spurs of old signing, not a Spurs of new one and Beckham seems a nostalgia target, especially for a man like Redknapp who so coverts the England job.
But on closer inspection it seems less foolhardy. Tottenham aren’t really competing with City anymore. As unfair as it may be, despite losing their Battle Royal last season the Manchester outfit have leapfrogged Spurs, missing a turn and passing Go straight into the title race (though Harry may well think he’s in there too). As unlikely as it may have seemed a few months ago, Tottenham’s battle to stay in the top four is being fought (right now at least) with Chelsea. And what Chelsea have over Spurs is experience (well, and a truly world class striker.)
What the Lilywhites don’t need is more squad players. They have a good, strong, already rather large squad, but what they don’t have in it are truly exceptional players with experience. For this reason Pienaar is perplexing, for he’s simply more of what they already have, but Beckham – despite being a fair few years off exceptional now – is undoubtedly experienced, and revered enough to be respected. So even if the move never transpires (and as we speak it seems anything but certain) Beckham simply training in North London could be just what Tottenham need to bolster the confidence, consistency and motivation within the squad. Because this is what Tottenham really need (Well, and truly world class striker.)
And if he does get the chance to play, then write him off as a crocked has been at your peril. I did, and he’s still bloody here!
You can follow Oscar on Twitter here; http://twitter.com/oscarpyejeary where you can witness his exasperated attempts to think of funny things to say.