Beckham models leadership on Adams' example

England's fifth captain in as many games has learned painful lessons of France 98
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According to David James, England's goalkeeper in the Stadio delle Alpi tonight, the only reason a football team needs a captain is to toss the coin for ends. David Beckham begs to differ.

According to David James, England's goalkeeper in the Stadio delle Alpi tonight, the only reason a football team needs a captain is to toss the coin for ends. David Beckham begs to differ.

The 25-year-old, who will become England's *fifth captain in as many matches, regards the post as a responsibility as well as an honour and believes he can make a difference.

While admitting he will not be running around, sleeves rolled up, fists balled, shouting at people like Roy Keane or Tony Adams, he will be seeking to inspire, by word as well as deed.

"I'll be quieter but I will bring something to the team," he said after training yesterday. "I'll be going round the players beforehand, helping to gee them up and prepare them for what is going to be a very tough test.

"On the pitch I am usually quiet so I will have to try and change that, but I hope I can influence players with what I do with my feet as well as my mouth."

One thing he will not be doing is significantly changing the team's formation. That is down to Peter Taylor. In that respect, James is right. There have been captains who have determined their team's tactics, but not many.

Danny Blanchflower often did so at Spurs and Terry Venables, famously, did so once with Chelsea. Only once because, though his tactics led to an excellent result, in a European tie in Italy, they also prompted his transfer from Stamford Bridge. Tommy Docherty, the then-manager, was unimpressed by such usurping of his authority.

Not that the role is as inconsequential as James suggests. In such a young team Beckham has influence. More than just asking, as he did yesterday, for later alarm calls.

To begin with he knows what it is like to win, and lose, in this very stadium. Both games were against Juventus, the second leading to Manchester United's place in the 1999 European Cup final.

"I am lucky enough to have played here so I can tell the young players what it is like," Beckham said. "Which is nerve-wracking but enjoyable. As we walked out this morning Gary Neville and I were recalling unbelievable memories. Not all are good. The first game we played here, we got the runaround. But walking on to the coach at the end of the second game, knowing we were in the European Cup final, is one of the best feelings I ever had."

Beckham quoted Keane, Bryan Robson and Adams as his biggest captaincy influences. And not just for shouting. Robson was always approachable to the young Beckham at United, while it was Adams - though Alan Shearer was captain - who comforted him in the dressing room after he had been sent off against Argentina in St-Etienne during France 98. The memory remains vivid.

"Tony was great to me in the World Cup," he said. "I learned from that. I needed it at that time. Maybe players in the future will need similar comforting and it will be my job to do it."

He added: "Two years on it is astonishing that I am now captain of England. I was not very well liked by a lot of people then. I got my head down, played football and enjoyed football. I still get stick but it's wearing off. It is something I have had to overcome; if not my football might have suffered."

Beckham, who wants to retain the captaincy if he can, has little experience of the position. He led United's youth team to a tournament win as a teenager and took the armband when Roy Keane was injured against Leeds recently. "No one else wanted it," he said. "It was sitting there on the bench. I slipped it on and sneaked past the manager. I don't think he noticed. Roy will be captain for many years so I thought I would take the chance when it came."

Beckham was outstanding in that game and England will hope he seizes the chance tonight with similar confidence.

True leadership skills, as Adams proved in St-Etienne, are often revealed in times of adversity. So how will Beckham react if things go wrong?

"If we did get a bad result, it is not for me to walk into changing room with my head down shouting and moaning at players," he said. "It is for me to gee people up again. We are not expected to go out and win 4-0 but if we can play football and get a good result we will be more than happy."

*ENGLAND CAPTAINS (LAST FIVE GAMES): Alan Shearer (v Romania, 20 June, Charleroi), Tony Adams/Sol Campbell (v France, 2 Sept, Paris), Tony Adams (v Germany, 7 Oct, Wembley), Martin Keown (v Finland, 11 Oct, Helsinki); David Beckham (v Italy, tonight, Turin).