Beckham's restoration to be confirmed in the centre

34-year-old set to be given first competitive start by Capello as holding midfielder

The last time David Beckham started a World Cup game was back in July 2006 on the day that the whole Sven Goran Eriksson project collapsed in defeat to Portugal in Gelsenkirchen. It was the game that was supposed to signal the beginning of the end for Beckham but, three years on, the man who just will not quit is likely to start a World Cup qualifier for his country at the age of 34.

Tonight against Andorra, cap No 112 for Beckham promises to be a starting place in the centre of the England midfield proving that even at this ripe old age for a footballer he can still reinvent himself as easily as he once switched hairstyles. Yes, he is there by default because Gareth Barry is suspended and Michael Carrick is injured but even so when Fabio Capello is in charge, nothing is done on the basis of sentimentality.

If Capello picks Beckham to start it will be only the third time he has done so in the 14 games he has been in charge and the first time in a competitive match. Beckham in a central holding role is not new in terms of England. He was played there for a two-game spell in September 2005 when Eriksson, in consultation with his players, was searching for a way to shoehorn Beckham into a 4-5-1 formation in the aftermath of a dreadful 4-1 away defeat to Denmark a month earlier.

For two games, away against Wales and Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifiers, Beckham was the holding player in a five-man midfield. When England lost to Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on a night of utter humiliation, the experiment was quietly shelved and Beckham restored to the right wing. Almost four years on, the comeback is a strong possibility.

The problem that England endured when Beckham did play in the centre for his country almost four years ago was that he was still fixated with hitting long balls out to the wings in much the same way as he had hit crosses when he was a winger. His performances made Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard virtual bystanders. Under Capello, you can only assume that he will be kept under much tighter restrictions.

It is not the first time that Capello has played Beckham in that role: when he was in charge at Real Madrid, Beckham played in the centre of midfield, although only twice according to the England manager. "I saw some games that he played for Milan in this position, with three midfielders, I like it," Capello said. "It's not a problem for David."

Even against the feeble Andorra team, ranked 196th by Fifa, one place below Aruba, Capello said yesterday that he would not consider resting his big names – other than those on bookings – to experiment with those fringe players such as Ashley Young and James Milner. This is the unyielding Capello creed that even games against the plankton of international football must be won before changes are made.

"At this moment, the most important thing is to win," Capello said. "We have time to experiment once we're sure of getting to South Africa. I think 100 per cent, we can experiment when we have qualified." At the rate that England are progressing they may well seal that qualification against Croatia in September which would leave the games against Ukraine and Belarus, as well as the rest of the friendlies, as scope for Capello to try different ideas.

Whether Beckham would ever be called upon to perform a holding midfield job come the 2010 World Cup finals – or whether he will even be in that squad – is up for debate. The bottom line is that Capello's England is a very different squad to the one that went to the last World Cup where Beckham refused to play at right-back in the first knockout game against Ecuador and Owen Hargreaves had to be pressed into doing it.

Under Eriksson, and Steve McClaren, the team shape changed according to the players available. Even in that game against Ecuador, four matches into a World Cup finals, Eriksson switched from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 because he had lost Michael Owen to injury in the previous match. Under Capello the team has found a way of playing and the manager does not change just to allow players to play where they prefer.

The England manager was, however, eager to point out that the goalkeeper David James, injured and out of the two end of season qualifiers, had dropped into the Grove Hotel in Watford to have dinner with the squad. That, Capello said, showed there was a good spirit. Unlike his team-mates, however, James would have been able to top up later if he was still hungry after one of the famously spartan Capello-era lunches.

Eleven days in Camp Capello is a long time for anyone, especially Premier League stars not accustomed to being restricted to their hotel rooms. They will be asked, as ever, to prepare for Andorra tonight as they would if they were playing Brazil and even though it will only be a victory over a ski resort, seven qualifying wins from seven is no bad start for an England manager.

Beck to the future: David's central spell

9 Feb 2005 Netherlands (h) D 0-0: Impressive showing as captain.

3 Sep 2005 Wales (a) W 1-0: Man-of-match display from deep.

7 Sep 2005 N Ireland (a) L 1-0: Spent half the game trying to calm Wayne Rooney. Clipped bar early on.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice