Beckham elevated by spirit of Munich

World Cup Qualifying: England midfielder was nervous about leading country but now relishes the responsibility and wants to keep armband
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The Independent Football

David Beckham, still basking in the afterglow of Saturday's stunning victory in Munich's Olympic Stadium, last night declared his desire to remain England captain for the rest of his international career. Beckham, who has won a string of honours with Manchester United, including the European Cup, said being captain was "the best feeling of my career".

He also said: "I wouldn't like to play for England and not be captain" but that was a demonstration of his pride in the role than a threat to withdraw his labour if he lost the honour.

Not that there is any immediate chance of that. Beckham, who was far from an obvious candidate when first appointed, by the stand-in manager Peter Taylor, for the friendly against Italy last November, has blossomed with the captaincy. "I love the responsibility," he said. "Being captain of a team like this is the best feeling I've had. Everyone has dreams, I used to run around the park thinking I was Bryan Robson [when he was England captain]."

As well as curbing his petulance Beckham has become more involved in the match, demanding the ball as he leads by example. He has also scored three goals in seven appearances as captain, after one in 36 previously. He added: "It has changed my game, the responsibility has made me 'grow up' in the way I play."

Beckham, who has missed just one of England's last 20 matches, added: "The first time I was nervous about being captain. I had a lot to prove. People said I was not one of those players who go around shouting and hollering. I said that myself. But in playing under captains like Bryan Robson, Tony Adams and Roy Keane I have learned a lot.

"For the last couple of games I have gone round each player in the dressing-room before we go out, wishing them good luck and saying 'enjoy the game'. On Saturday [before playing Germany] I said 'they are beatable so let's relax'."

That they were and Beckham now hopes and believes England can build on Saturday night. He said: "I would see my captaincy as a failure if we did not win something. I have won a lot with Manchester United but success with the national team is a must, it is about time we won something.

"There is a lot more to come from this team. It is a young team – I am one of the oldest [at 26] – and the future is bright. The team has a lot of confidence. Beating teams like Germany, and whether they are going through a bad patch or not they are always hard to beat, gives you immense confidence. People say next summer's World Cup will come too early for us but we can do well if we get there."

If... England, Beckham insisted, were taking nothing for granted. Saturday had been celebrated and the match video watched "three or four times, it gets better every time". It was now time to concentrate on defeating Albania at St James' Park tomorrow.

"We were all carried away with Saturday's result, and rightly so because it was a massive game, but if we don't win on Wednesday it means nothing," Beckham said. "In Euro 2000 we beat the Germans 1-0 and everyone said 'we are going all the way' but three days later we were out of the competition. We have learned from that. The first thing the manager [Sven Goran Eriksson] said to us in the changing room after Germany was 'well done tonight – but now focus on the game on Wednesday'."

"Patience will be the key. I'm sure the crowd will want us to score four or five goals in the first 10 minutes. Expectations will be massive but people must be calm. It took us 70 minutes to score the first goal in Albania [in the game in Tirana]."

England's prospects are enhanced by the luxury of being able to select from a full squad for the second successive match. Beckham, whose groin strain had put him in doubt for Munich, said he was "tired and stiff" but would be "fit to play".

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