Football: Beckham's thoughts on fame game and Munich add spice to pounds 3.5m boot deal

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The Independent Online
Dry ice, loud music, stroboscopic lights - they launch West End shows with less fuss. All this for a boot sponsorship, but yesterday the player was David Beckham.

Guy Hodgson was there.

You could hear the approach of the full-scale personality and part- time footballer from half a mile away. The deep, satisfying roar of a Porsche heralded David Beckham's arrival as surely as trumpets used to announce a monarch.

In the 1950s Bobby Charlton would walk into the city for a night out with the other Manchester United players, set apart from the man on the terraces only by their ability. Not now. Can you imagine Ryan Giggs in a bus queue, or Beckham knocking about in a beat-up Escort?

On the day before today's 40th anniversary of the Munich air crash, Beckham was on display to announce a seven-year deal with Adidas that will earn him pounds 3.5m. At 22, in the space of six years he has gone from cleaning Bryan Robson's footwear to filling his boots by the simple expedient of being talented in them. Duncan Edwards thought he had made it when the club started supplying studs.

You read so many things about Beckham that when you hear him speak it is a surprise. Quiet, embarrassed even, he was anything but flash. Soberly he addressed his image, his temper and Munich.

Even he is shocked at the rocket, partly-Posh Spice powered, rise from the nervous debutant against Leeds in April 1995 to becoming one of the most famous people in the country. "I didn't expect it to come so quickly," he said. "It's been hard to keep up with.

"There's been a few articles in the papers that say I've got too big for my boots but people who know me say I'm just the same. Things have changed in my life but I haven't - too many people would knock me down if I did. The criticism hurts sometimes and I worry about the effect on my family."

Which would be fine except that Beckham has the habit of courting publicity as well as one of Britain's most desirable women. His celebration at Chelsea recently, hands behind ears directed at supporters who barracked him, was not designed to win friends and neither are the occasional on-field flashes of temper.

"There's a picture in a magazine of the abuse I was getting from the Chelsea fans when I was taking a corner there," he countered by reference to the provocation he faces each week. "It doesn't bother me, but when I celebrate I don't think I've done anything wrong. I haven't stuck two fingers up or anything."

As for his short fuse he says both his club manager, Alex Ferguson, and the England coach, Glenn Hoddle, have spoken to him and are satisfied he is handling things better. "I do it because I'm so hyped up for the game. I love football and I love winning and when things aren't going right I get annoyed. I can't help it," he said.

Perhaps Beckham would be more restrained if he did not play for the club he supported as a boy. He understands the split emotions this weekend as United both commemorate and celebrate the lives of the eight players who died in Munich 40 years ago with a service of remembrance today and a minute's silence before tomorrow's match against Bolton.

"Saturday will be a great day and a sad day," Beckham, a member of the last generation of United players to meet Sir Matt Busby, said, "and hopefully we'll perform in the way the Busby Babes would have done, get the result in style."