Bruce baffled by Beckham furore

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The Independent Online

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has defended his decision to name former Manchester United team-mate David Beckham as England's man of the match against Belarus.

Bruce, working on the game as a television pundit for ITV, handed Beckham the award after he came off the bench to play his part in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying victory at Wembley.

One newspaper columnist later described the decision as "grotesque", while England boss Fabio Capello likened it to Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace prize just months into his term as American president.

However, Bruce was unrepentant when questioned on the topic today.

He said: "It's incredible. I have never known such a carry-on.

"When I was in the stadium, he came on to the pitch and let's be fair, for 50 minutes, it was dull, boring, uninteresting. That's the way I looked at it.

"David Beckham comes on to the scene, the whole stadium in unison rises to him and I thought, 'Blooming heck! Wow! Fantastic! Now Dave, what have you got?'.

"For me, for the 35, 40 minutes, he lit up Wembley, the way his attitude was, and I suppose that's why Mr Capello keeps picking him to go into the squad, to do something like that for him.

"Maybe he can't do it for 90 minutes. However, for me, he had an impact. That's the way I saw it, that's the way I called it."

Meanwhile, Bruce admitted that he understood striker Emile Heskey's concerns about his World Cup hopes because of his lack of football at Aston Villa.

There were claims earlier this week that the frontman was considering a move away from Villa Park in an effort to resurrect his international career, later denied by the player.

But Bruce, who worked with Heskey at Wigan, knows he will have to be playing regularly if he is to be in top form for South Africa.

He said: "The one thing you want to do if you are an international player - I never got there - is go and perform on a big stage at the World Cup finals.

"Emile has got to an age where he knows this is his last one, so he will want to play some part of the season to be and remain England's centre-forward.

"Let's be fair, Mr Capello has picked him religiously. For the big games, he has picked him - but he is obviously going to find it very hard if Emile is not playing for Aston Villa.

"I wish Emile well, I hope he goes on and plays well because I like him as a player.

"I know all his attributes and what he gives to a team, and I think Mr Capello is very, very interested in that, the team rather than individuals."

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