Beckham needs play not rest, says Hoddle

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The Independent Online
He may be jaded and tired, but David Beckham's place in England's World Cup team to play Georgia at Wembley on Wednesday is safe.

That was a promise from Glenn Hoddle yesterday as the England coach pledged not to make the mistake with Beckham that, he claims, Ron Greenwood did with him.

Hoddle, like Beckham, was acclaimed as England's next great player when he scored on his international debut as a 22-year-old against Bulgaria in 1979. Yet, though he went on to win 53 caps, he never realised his potential.

"He is not an international player, not yet," said Hoddle of Beckham. "But I have left him in for a reason. He needs a run of games. I am drawing on my own experience. I came in and scored that goal [a spectacular volley from the edge of the area] then I was left out for five games. When I finally got back in there was so much expectation on me. It was `this is it'. It might have been a different story if that had not happened."

Hoddle capped Beckham in his first match as coach and has picked the Manchester United player every time he has been fit since. Wednesday will be his fifth cap.

"Personally, I have no doubt he is going to be a great player," Hoddle added. "He has the talent to become one in two or three seasons. He will be a king- pin but he is not ready for that yet. He is not an accomplished international player, like Alan Shearer, David Seaman, Teddy Sheringham and Paul Ince. He will need at least 12 to 15 games for that. It could be more, it depends on what those games are like - Steve McManaman is still adjusting after 18 caps."

In the long term, Hoddle, like Alex Ferguson, sees Beckham running the game from central midfield rather than on the wide right where he usually is for club and country. Hoddle explained that had Beckham been fit he would have played him in the centre in the friendly match against Mexico to "speed up" the process of nursing him in.

Instead Beckham was rested with an injury. This rest, suggested Hoddle, is more responsible for his loss of form than the number of matches he has played. "We played more matches in my day and I don't buy that stuff about mental pressure. When the whistle goes you forget all that. Rest for a 21-year-old is not necessarily the best thing. Only the more experienced players know how to switch it on and off.

"He's not tired, he has a good engine. Other players have had dips in form this season. We are asking players to produce excellent performances week in and week out and there is not a player on earth who can do that. As a coach you just hope that eight are on song to carry the three who are having an off day."

Hoddle was keen to rebuff further reports yesterday that he and Ferguson were at odds over playing Beckham this week. The England coach pointed out that the young midfielder would not have played for a full week prior to Wednesday's match and insisted that he and Ferguson were in agreement.

Hoddle was pleased to be able to train with an almost full party yesterday. Only Ian Walker of the 25-man squad was unable to take part. The Tottenham goalkeeper is suffering from leg and shoulder injuries and a decision will be made today on whether to return him to his club.

Four players did not take full part in the weekend's sessions. Walker's club-mate Teddy Sheringham has a problem with a blister, Stuart Pearce has an irritated calf; and the Liverpool pair, Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, have slight knee injuries.