Beckham fears England career is over

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The Independent Football

David Beckham has not lost the art of the dramatic riposte, as he reminded the Real Madrid coach, Fabio Capello, when he stepped from the substitutes' bench to secure an essential victory for his club over Real Sociedad on Sunday night. But the 31-year-old is not expecting the chance to do likewise for his country, even though the England manager, Steve McClaren, has lost both Owen Hargreaves and Aaron Lennon from his midfield for next month's European Championship qualifiers.

The former England captain still harbours the ambition for the six caps he needs to complete a century for his country, a point he stressed several times yesterday when conducting a publicity drive for his football schools and his latest book. However, having been omitted from McClaren's first squad as England manager, and all three games of his regime in total, Beckham conceded that he was unlikely to be recalled for the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Macedonia and Croatia when Lennon and Hargreaves, his successor in the No 7 shirt, would be absent through injury.

"When I've had knocks before I've always wanted to prove people wrong, and I want to do that again. I would love to reach 100 caps," said Beckham who, along with the Italian forward Antonio Cassano, was sacrificed by Capello after Madrid's Champions' League defeat to Lyon.

"If I never play for England again then I've played 94 times and captained England for six years and have had an amazing time playing for England. I don't want it to end, I want it to carry on. If I was a betting man I wouldn't bet on me playing again - but who knows?" Among several insights into his life outside the England captaincy to emerge yesterday - including how he sent a good luck message to Roy Keane before his former Manchester United team-mate's managerial bow with Sunderland and commiserated with Tom Cruise after the Hollywood star was dumped by Paramount - Beckham also revealed how McClaren brought his international career to a close.

"It was out of the blue. I had a few phone calls before from him asking about my fitness. I thought everything was good. He came on the phone and said, 'You've had an amazing time as an England player and captain, I want to move forward'. He said there will be casualties on the way and that 'you are one of the casualties'. It surprised me and I'm gutted. At the end of the day he has a decision to make... I was angry and disappointed but I want to play again. You need things like that to spur you on."

The midfielder confessed that he had found it hard to watch England's games in absentia and, contrary to his recent difficulties under Capello, he has no intention of bringing his career at the Bernabeu to an end. "I don't think I'll ever return to the Premiership," he added. "I played for Manchester United for many years. They are the club I support and, hand on heart, I couldn't see myself playing in any other shirt in the Premiership."

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