Beckham's back in the old scene-grabbing routine

The cyst should be fine but the right side remains a pain
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The Independent Football

Let's give credit where it is due. When it comes to making off with the thunder, few can cut it like David Beckham. On a day when the headlines should have concentrated on Wayne Rooney, Golden Balls will be muscling in on the limelight, too.

Let's give credit where it is due. When it comes to making off with the thunder, few can cut it like David Beckham. On a day when the headlines should have concentrated on Wayne Rooney, Golden Balls will be muscling in on the limelight, too.

And why? Because he has a slight cyst on his back that does not threaten his place in England's team against France next Sunday, did not seem to hamper his movement in any way during his 45 minutes' action against Iceland yesterday, and could have been sorted quietly at any time. But that is not the Beckham way, and you can rest safe that the medical bulletins will be issued with the solemnity due a dying monarch.

"It's not a problem," Sven Goran Eriksson, the England manager, said, refusing to treat the matter with anything like the gravity the hungry media would have liked. "I can guarantee he will be training again on Tuesday." Eriksson, who had the jauntiness worthy of any manager whose team had just won 6-1, added: "We decided two days ago he should have an injection for a small inflammation and it was better to do it after the game, so that he can rest for two days. He has no problem."

England can rest easy then. Or it can until the problem of the national side's midfield is addressed. First it was diamonds are forever, now Eriksson may want his midfield to sparkle as a flat four in the European Championship. Indecisive? The England manager will let you know if he is when he has made his mind up.

Eriksson adopted his best Alastair Campbell manner in the build-up to yesterday's friendly by saying he hoped his future opponents did think he did not know his best team or formation yet. "If that's the case, very good," he said, but frankly, you do not have to be an opponent to think the Swede is dithering over the system to bring the best out of his key players, not least the biggest of them all in terms of profile. Beckham is said to have Eriksson's ear when it comes to tactics, but the evidence this week is that the manager is selective in his listening.

Beckham's stated preference is to be close to the centre of England's engine- room, and it was with that partly in mind that the diamond formation was instigated for the qualifying matches, as itensures Beckham has to move in from his flank.

Given the shambles of Beckham's defending on Tuesday, when he was at fault twice for Japan's goal, you could understand why Eriksson might want Steven Gerrard by his side to give extra insurance. Beckham may have been lacking in motivation in a friendly at the end of a long, jading season, but Thierry Henry and Robert Pires will have noted the space around the England captain. Expect them to be probing away next Sunday.

But that is the test in seven days' time; yesterday, Iceland did not have the players properly to exploit any England weakness and, to give Eriksson credit, the system employed by the starting 11 dealt with their opponents with quiet efficiency. To score three goals in 45 minutes is difficult against any international opposition.

Beckham's role in those goals amounted to the quick throw-in that gave Gary Neville the momentum to set up Rooney's first goal, but that was not to disparage a performance that included a range of passing and a shot that might have found the corner of the net but for the slightest of deflections. There was also the threat from set-pieces, and Frank Lampard will be mystified as to how he managed to head wide from six yards from Beckham's corner after 18 minutes.

It was no coincidence either that Gary Neville not only made Rooney's opener, but also delivered the cross of the match after four minutes that Paul Scholes put over from close range. Beckham's presence on the right and the attention it wrought from the Icelandic defenders gave Neville the space.

The jury has been out for an era on whether Beckham is better as a wide boy or a central cog, and yesterday did not bring them any nearer to the court room. Only the treatment room, which brings us to another problem: the publicity the England captain attracts.

If Beckham was truly discomforted he should not have played yesterday, and his disappearance halfway through the match gave his minor problem an undue sense of urgency. The words "drama" and "queen" come to mind.

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