Beckham sees the positives for England in Real's 'doom and gloom'

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The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson's captain insists that the poor form of his club side will lift him to great things against Wales.



David Beckham conceded last night that there is a sense of "doom and gloom" at Real Madrid but insisted that rather than distracting he and his club-mate, Michael Owen, from their England duties, this Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Wales will serve only to restore their spirits.

Returning to Old Trafford, an "inspiring" venue, would be one reason for that, Beckham said, as would facing his former Manchester United team-mate, Ryan Giggs, in a competitive match for the first time in his career. Owen, he said, would hopefully benefit from his short break away from Spain, if only because of being back among familiar, friendly faces in the England set-up.

After Beckham had opined at length, especially about Owen's poor start in Spain, the truest indicator of what he had just said was when he stepped down from the press conference podium and left. As Owen then took his own place in the front of the press, Beckham re-emerged quietly at the back of the room to watch.

Maybe it was out of a sense of duty as the England captain. More likely, it was a simple sign of solidarity. As soon as Owen settled, Beckham acknowledged him with a grin and departed. Job done, for the time being, although both men are at crossroads in their club and international careers.

"I must admit it's not the happiest place to be in the world," Beckham said of the Bernabeu at the moment. "When you're not playing well and losing games, it's not going to be, especially with Barcelona doing well.

"I suppose it could be worse, we could be bottom of the league. We need to get a little bit of confidence. I thought we got that back after the recent Champions' League match [against Roma, which ended in a 4-2 win]. But it's not that good. It's not clicking for us. We're not playing well as a team. Against Roma for 70 minutes was the best we've played for a long time but then we back playing not well again this weekend."

Defeat to Deportivo La Coruña in that match was Real's fourth league reverse of the season and the ninth in their last 13 games dating back into last season. The upshot is their worst start in La Liga for 75 years and Beckham admitted that Owen in particular, unable to command any regular first-team place so far, was suffering.

"It's not an enjoyable place when you're not playing," Beckham said. "It's tough for him but then it was going to be tough [competing for a place] against Raul, Ronaldo and Morientes. Michael needs his chance to get into the team and score his first goal. It's been said so many times before, but when he gets a goal, he'll be fine."

Beckham's own baptism into the world of the Galacticos a year ago was much easier. "I settled straight away. It helped going into a new position. I'd been playing on the right wing for so many years at Manchester United. I went straight to middle of midfield and it gave me a fresh start."

Had Owen come to him for advice or support? "I don't think it's as bad as that, yet," Beckham said, adding that international week would probably be as good a therapy as any. "Sometimes it's nice when your team isn't playing well, coming away with the lads. It's nice to get away from it all."

With England desperate for a good result against Wales on Saturday, pressure is one thing they will not escape.

"Pressure is everywhere in football these days," Beckham said. "If you play for a high-profile club then you've got to expect the pressure. And if you're not playing well, you've got to expect to get criticised."

He accepted he had not performed especially well in the World Cup qualifiers against Austria and Poland, and that some criticism had been due. Given that admission - not to mention Real's travails - it seemed slightly surprising for him then to voice confidence in his form. But that is precisely what he did when asked if Old Trafford could inspire him back to the kind of supreme display that he gave at the same venue against Greece in the final qualifying game for the 2002 World Cup.

"I personally feel it's back already, because in my games in Spain so far I,ve been happy with my performance. I got criticism for the last couple of England games and I accept that. [But] I feel my performances for Real have been good and I hope playing at Old Trafford in a massive game versus Wales will only inspire me more.

"I hope I play well but if I don't then I'll do what I do in any other game when I'm not playing well, I'll work hard."

He added that Old Trafford, what he referred to as a "special place", would give him an "inspiring feeling." He said he expects "a good little battle".

He went on: "Every player in our team is going to be lifted by this game. I'm not saying we fear them but we respect them as a team. They've got players like [Craig] Bellamy, who attacks down the side and score goals. And Ryan Giggs. There aren't many players, on his day, who are better than him."

And there was still time for one more mention for Owen.

"Of course he's still good enough to be in this team. He doesn't become a bad player overnight. He's still a world-class player."

The Football Association, meanwhile, announced yesterday that they have agreed a date to play a friendly against Spain next month. The match will take place on 17 November in Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium.

England's last match against the Spaniards in Spain, in 1987, ended in a 4-2 win for England but their most recent meeting, three years ago, was Sven-Goran Eriksson's first game in charge, at Villa Park. That too ended in victory, by 3-0.

"This is a very prestigious fixture in one of the world's finest stadiums and I'm sure the players and the fans will be really looking forward to it," Eriksson said.

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