Beckham is chosen by BBC viewers

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The Independent Football

David Beckham stepped from the Manchester United substitutes' bench back into the limelight last night when he was named the 2001 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The England midfielder received the trophy in London from Sven Goran Eriksson, who had earlier collected the award for coach of the year after steering England to next year's World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan.

The link between the two awards was inescapable. It was a swing of Beckham's right boot in the dying moments of their final qualifying match, against Greece at his home ground of Old Trafford, that propelled a free-kick into the net and earned a 2-2 draw that was enough to take England into the finals.

Apart from his performances as Manchester United won the Premiership title in May, it was probably that single shot from 30 yards that carried the charismatic 26-year-old past the round-the-world yachtswoman, Ellen MacArthur, who was runner-up, and his England team-mate Michael Owen, third, in the poll of viewers. Also shortlisted in the 48th annual awards were the tennis player Tim Henman, the world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and the triple jumper, Jonathan Edwards.

The award capped a mixed week for Beckham. Omitted from Manchester United's team for the midweek 3-0 victory over Boavista in the Champions' League, he was left out again as they suffered a 1-0 home defeat by West Ham. Both those decisiona were made by United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who remnarkable success in the job brought a lifetime achievement award last night.

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