James Lawton: Stop the insanity, Harry. Beckham will be only beneficiary of a move to Spurs
Van der Vaart, Modric and the wonderful Bale already offer all the influence, style and inspiration a growing football team needs
Tuesday 04 January 2011
What's it all about, Harry? David Beckham, I mean. Is it really you, the old, gnarled pro, burbling on about the huge value of having football's ultimate celebrity decorating White Hart Lane during his annual three-month break from the competitive hotbed known as the Home Depot Center?
By the way, Harry, this is a rhetorical question. Most of us know what it's about, which is to say the Goldenballs publicity juggernaut is cranking up another gear, and we're just staggered that a man of your professional nous is giving it the smallest corner of house room.
Whatever the chance of it happening, you've gone on the record with the view that a possible deal would help Spurs as much as Beckham. It wouldn't, Harry, and if anyone knows it you do. Its main service would be to the fantasy life of Beckham, who advances on his 36th birthday believing that he can go on piling up the most gratuitous heap of international caps in the history of the game.
Why wouldn't he, though, if hard-headed pros like Fabio Capello and now, apparently, you, are ready to fuel the myth that it is still not time for him to recognise that his days as a serious performer at the business end of top-flight football were really over when he took the cop-out money from LA Galaxy?
They weren't, according to Beckham, because he was encouraged to believe that he could have it both ways, he could be the best rewarded remittance man ever to cross the Mississippi with a guaranteed return ticket. Capello and Milan have given some dubious credence to an extraordinary double life and now there is this loose talk that Spurs may be about to perform the same service. It hardly bears scrutiny.
This is probably the point where all those who challenge the Beckham myth are required to make certain disclaimers. No, we have not been ordered into psychiatric care. No, we don't believe he is the Antichrist; especially not that, because in so many ways he is an admirable figure, patriotic at every opportunity and commendably devoted to family values in all his public pronouncements and appearances.
We just happen to hold – God save us – that in the area of inflated reputation no one can begin to match his achievements.
The ovation at the recent BBC Sports Personality of the Year was so long and so intense it brought the obligation to play back all the great achievements of his career in something of a panic; what had you missed, where was the mountain range of outstanding feats to go along with that free-kick against Greece and regular evidence of high ball skill?
Where were the underpinnings of this legend, where could anyone begin to build the case that at any point in his career he could ever be vaguely placed among the truly great players?
Of course, these are old arguments and need not be dwelt upon now. The legend is made, the knighthood is inevitable. The issue concerns Harry's enthusiasm for three months of Beckham in potentially the defining season of his own impressively late-blossoming career.
Recently Redknapp was praised for his brilliant work by Sir Alex Ferguson and this was surely a benchmark for the reputation he has enhanced so strikingly at White Hart Lane. Now, though, the approval of the Old Trafford manager might be a source of some reflection for Redknapp as he considers the overture made to his son, Jamie, by Beckham.
Ferguson, lest Harry forget, cut Beckham loose seven years ago – and at little cost to his pursuit of major trophies. By comparison, Real Madrid won one major trophy, the Spanish title, with a contribution by Beckham that could only be said to have been marginal before he flew out to LA. That was far from Beckham's fault entirely, of course, but it was not exactly evidence of super-talismanic qualities.
Ferguson was widely reviled for his decision, just as Capello was memorably described as the man who killed Bambi when he had the temerity to suggest last year that Beckham was probably getting a bit old for England. The criticism, naturally, bounced off Ferguson. He said that Beckham's embrace of the values of his showbiz wife's world had made the decision inevitable. Beckham's lifestyle had become a distraction, distorting hopelessly the proper role and influence of a leading professional.
Now Redknapp, of all people, talks about the advantage of having Beckham around, the potential impact of his influence and his example.
This is more than a little bit mind-boggling. If Aaron Lennon is going to make something consistently significant of his gifts it will not be because of the presence of an old player whose gifts and strengths were always quite different from his own. It will be because of examples supplied not by an icon of questionable credentials but players like Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale, players who are doing it now and with wonderful nerve and understanding of their own gifts.
If Lennon wants to improve his game there is nowhere better to do in that in the shadow of Bale's brilliant ability to display both power and vision. Bale overwhelms defences, ultimately, with an asset which Lennon has always found so elusive. It is a capacity to run with his head up. He reads the play and thus so often shapes it. Van der Vaart is the kind of player Beckham, for all those skills he polished down the years, could never have been. The Dutchman is intuitive and brilliantly acute in the action. Beside him is Luka Modric, a player of lovely skill and biting football intellect.
Here is all the influence and the style and inspiration any growing football team needs. Redknapp has presided over its development with a fine professional touch. He has pushed back the horizon of his team's possibilities. He has achieved genuine momentum and self-confidence.
Beckham says he would love to play at Spurs. Who wouldn't? But then someone should tell him that it has become a rite of passage and not another self-serving publicity spin-off. That somebody should be you, Harry.
Pardew should act to ensure there is no repeat of these pained histrionics
Along with Joey Barton, Cheik Tiote was awarded warrior status for his midfield performance in Newcastle's victory at Wigan. He played well, certainly, but no one, warrior or otherwise, ever invited more scorn on his trade.
He clutched his head so fiercely that he might have been hit by a missile rather than engaged in a desultory challenge by a Wigan player. He lay there for a while, then removed his hands and took a furtive peek at the reaction to his counterfeit agony.
Whether or not the FA takes retrospective action, Newcastle's new manager, Alan Pardew, should make his own initiative. He should say that, while Tiote's offence was squarely unique, it was an act of dishonesty that undermined everything he had done in an otherwise splendid performance. It shamed not just Tiote but his club and the wider game.
Such behaviour is not just outrageous. It is, in the long run, ruinous.
Khawaja shines for Australia, but what took them so long?
That was another mauling for Australian cricket pride in the small hours of yesterday morning. Again the top order buckled; again the idea that this Ashes series had a truly competitive basis was revealed to be an illusion.
Still, all is not lost Down Under. Usman Khawaja emerged at No 3 with a confidence and a panache that made his delayed selection all the more symptomatic of a cricket culture which has forgotten the origins of its old strength.
Khawaja didn't make a big score but he showed a rich vein of promise – and a level of self-confidence gone grimly missing from the great man he replaced, Ricky Ponting, and the currently hapless stand-in skipper, Michael Clarke.
Khawaja's devoted mother may have appeared to be close to hyperventilation as she prayed on behalf of her son, but he looked decidedly at home, pulling the second ball he faced for a rifle-crack of a four.
What was more than a little odd, given the paucity of new Australian batting over the last few years, was the fact that the nation's first Muslim Test player had to wait until the ripe old age of 24 to make his debut.
Ponting was 20 when he got the call. Neil Harvey was 19, Ian Chappell 21, and the great Don Bradman was 20.
No one can say at this point that Khawaja is made of the same material, but in all the woeful circumstances of Australia's desperate situation the delay in any serious investigation of this is quite bizarre.
At least it is reassuring to learn that Mike Hussey might not be the last Australian batsman to remain undiminished by a baggy green cap.
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