Beckham's restoration to be confirmed in the centre

34-year-old set to be given first competitive start by Capello as holding midfielder

The last time David Beckham started a World Cup game was back in July 2006 on the day that the whole Sven Goran Eriksson project collapsed in defeat to Portugal in Gelsenkirchen. It was the game that was supposed to signal the beginning of the end for Beckham but, three years on, the man who just will not quit is likely to start a World Cup qualifier for his country at the age of 34.

Tonight against Andorra, cap No 112 for Beckham promises to be a starting place in the centre of the England midfield proving that even at this ripe old age for a footballer he can still reinvent himself as easily as he once switched hairstyles. Yes, he is there by default because Gareth Barry is suspended and Michael Carrick is injured but even so when Fabio Capello is in charge, nothing is done on the basis of sentimentality.

If Capello picks Beckham to start it will be only the third time he has done so in the 14 games he has been in charge and the first time in a competitive match. Beckham in a central holding role is not new in terms of England. He was played there for a two-game spell in September 2005 when Eriksson, in consultation with his players, was searching for a way to shoehorn Beckham into a 4-5-1 formation in the aftermath of a dreadful 4-1 away defeat to Denmark a month earlier.

For two games, away against Wales and Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifiers, Beckham was the holding player in a five-man midfield. When England lost to Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on a night of utter humiliation, the experiment was quietly shelved and Beckham restored to the right wing. Almost four years on, the comeback is a strong possibility.

The problem that England endured when Beckham did play in the centre for his country almost four years ago was that he was still fixated with hitting long balls out to the wings in much the same way as he had hit crosses when he was a winger. His performances made Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard virtual bystanders. Under Capello, you can only assume that he will be kept under much tighter restrictions.

It is not the first time that Capello has played Beckham in that role: when he was in charge at Real Madrid, Beckham played in the centre of midfield, although only twice according to the England manager. "I saw some games that he played for Milan in this position, with three midfielders, I like it," Capello said. "It's not a problem for David."

Even against the feeble Andorra team, ranked 196th by Fifa, one place below Aruba, Capello said yesterday that he would not consider resting his big names – other than those on bookings – to experiment with those fringe players such as Ashley Young and James Milner. This is the unyielding Capello creed that even games against the plankton of international football must be won before changes are made.

"At this moment, the most important thing is to win," Capello said. "We have time to experiment once we're sure of getting to South Africa. I think 100 per cent, we can experiment when we have qualified." At the rate that England are progressing they may well seal that qualification against Croatia in September which would leave the games against Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the rest of the friendlies, as scope for Capello to try different ideas.

Whether Beckham would ever be called upon to perform a holding midfield job come the 2010 World Cup finals – or whether he will even be in that squad – is up for debate. The bottom line is that Capello's England is a very different squad to the one that went to the last World Cup where Beckham refused to play at right-back in the first knockout game against Ecuador and Owen Hargreaves had to be pressed into doing it.

Under Eriksson, and Steve McClaren, the team shape changed according to the players available. Even in that game against Ecuador, four matches into a World Cup finals, Eriksson switched from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 because he had lost Michael Owen to injury in the previous match. Under Capello the team has found a way of playing and the manager does not change just to allow players to play where they prefer.

The England manager was, however, eager to point out that the goalkeeper David James, injured and out of the two end of season qualifiers, had dropped into the Grove Hotel in Watford to have dinner with the squad. That, Capello said, showed there was a good spirit. Unlike his team-mates, however, James would have been able to top up later if he was still hungry after one of the famously spartan Capello-era lunches.

Eleven days in Camp Capello is a long time for anyone, especially Premier League stars not accustomed to being restricted to their hotel rooms. They will be asked, as ever, to prepare for Andorra tonight as they would if they were playing Brazil and even though it will only be a victory over a ski resort, seven qualifying wins from seven is no bad start for an England manager.

Beck to the future: David's central spell

9 Feb 2005 Netherlands (h) D 0-0: Impressive showing as captain.

3 Sep 2005 Wales (a) W 1-0: Man-of-match display from deep.

7 Sep 2005 N Ireland (a) L 1-0: Spent half the game trying to calm Wayne Rooney. Clipped bar early on.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas