Steve McClaren was last night on one of his most bizarre scouting missions yet – watching David Beckham play in a charity match against Vinnie Jones's Hollywood Sunday league team. The England manager is understood to have made the trip secretly with even some Football Association officials unaware he was going.
McClaren went to see Beckham play for the Los Angeles Galaxy against Hollywood United, a charity game that was due to kick off around 3am this morning. The Hollywood United players are mostly expat amateurs yearning for a regular football match although they do number among their squad Alexi Lalas, the former USA international who, as president of the LA Galaxy, is Beckham's employer.
Beckham was also playing against the likes of former Chelsea and France international Franck Lebeouf and former Scotland and Rangers player Richard McGough. Lining up too with Jones were Def Leppard guitarist Viv Campbell, former Sex Pistol Paul Cook and actor Anthony LaPaglia. The overall standard of Hollywood United can be divined from the fact that they challenged the English press to a game when the latter were in California for Beckham's arrival last summer.
McClaren also watched the former England captain train on Friday and was keen to speak to the 32-year-old to get an idea of his fitness. England have a friendly against Austria in Vienna on 16 November and then their last Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia five days later. Qualification is out of their hands with Croatia requiring one point against Macedonia and Russia needing maximum points from Israel and Andorra to be sure of qualifying.
For Beckham, last night was a chance to prove his fitness and at least get the chance to gain 100 caps (he is on 97) if he is, after all, not to play at one more major championship.
For McClaren it was a chance to slip away from England, which has been a difficult place to be since defeat to Russia on 12 September made Euro 2008 qualification for England look unlikely.
The England manager tried to keep the trip secret and did not tell other FA officials that he was going to California. He is understood to be in good spirits despite the Russia result and there is no appetite in the FA for sacking him right away. In fact, there is a softening of attitude in some quarters and, although remote, the possibility that McClaren may stay on despite not qualifying for Euro 2008 cannot be completely discounted.
The match was due to be played at the LA Galaxy's Home Depot Center stadium in aid of charities supporting those affected by the recent wildfires that have hit southern California and – perhaps fortunately for Beckham – Jones was last night not likely to play.Reuse content