Hail the leader of wonderland

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The Independent Football

The captaincy styles of David Beckham and his predecessors, Alan Shearer and Tony Adams are being sharply, if rather prematurely, compared. Naturally Beckham's way is hailed as innately superior. Shearer and Adams, we are told, were aloof and fostered cliques.

Beckham, on the other hand, is a man of the team ­ and of the people. Wherever anyone looked in England's training headquarters in La Manga, Spain, Beckham's Mohawk head was apparently in the thick of a crowd of young fans or laughing team-mates.

This may all be pleasant enough as far it goes, but what it has to do with Beckham's graduation as a captain of a team operating under the harsh pressure of international competition is something of a mystery. Captaincy is not something you learn. It doesn't come with a decision to "talk more on the field".

Beckham has captained England five times now; three of the games have been rather meaningless friendlies, two were qualifying games against opponents who should have been beaten, and were, although with varying degrees of difficulty. But so far, so good, within limits which seem to be getting blown up a little more bizarrely each day.

We are also told that England may have the best midfield in the world, a theory which surely impinges on fantasy despite the fact that Beckham was claiming the other day to have had his best "25 minutes ever" for England ­ against an under-strength, and under-motivated Mexico.

Shearer and Adams may have had their surly, withdrawn tendencies but they were ultimate professionals. They lived in a hard, competitive world. The worry about Beckham's England is that sooner than later Sven Goran Eriksson will have to drag them out of wonderland.

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