Tuesday 16 March 2010
Brian Viner: Pity poor Beckham. Actually, don't
All good things come to an end. This one might be timed fortuitously
Of all the injuries for David Beckham to sustain, cruelly ruling him out of consideration for the England World Cup squad, it is apt that it should be to the Achilles tendon, named after the most handsome hero of Greek mythology, invulnerable everywhere except his foot. Fatally, Achilles copped an arrow in the heel.
And fatally for his international career, Beckham has snapped a tendon in his ankle, a podiatric mishap to add to the broken metatarsal he suffered shortly before the World Cup in 2002. Indeed, the erstwhile England captain has become something of a modern-day composite of ancient Greek myths and legends. Dubbed Goldenballs by his very own wife, he has always assiduously courted media attention. In other words he is the man with the Midas touch, flying too close to The Sun.
Opinion is divided on whether this shattering injury – which occurred on Sunday while he was playing for Milan – represents wholly bad news for England's World Cup hopes. The England manager, Fabio Capello, whom Beckham won over when both were at Real Madrid, would almost certainly have selected the 34-year-old for his squad, intending to deploy him as what has become known in footballing circles as an impact substitute.
Certainly, Beckham's gift for striking a ball has not diminished, even if his ability to outrun or dribble past an opposing player, never his greatest asset, is these days reminiscent less of Stanley Matthews than Bernard Matthews, or possibly even the late Jessie Matthews. Yet it is by no means impossible to imagine a scenario whereby Capello, with his team perhaps 1-0 down in the quarter-final and desperate for better delivery of the ball into the penalty area, might have been rewarded by sending Beckham into the fray.
The key words in that sentence are "might have been". Beckham cannot recover in time to make the plane to South Africa, and it is almost impossible now to envisage him adding to the 115 appearances that already make him the most capped outfield player in England's history. The question is: should the nation mourn the passing of the Beckham era?
Unequivocally, it should not. All good things come to an end, and this good thing may have come to an end at a fortuitous moment, offering an opportunity to a younger player less familiar to the opposition than old Goldenballs, such as Manchester City's promising Adam Johnson. Besides, Beckham's presence in the squad, and his wife Victoria's hollow-cheeked presence in the crowd, would have given England's World Cup adventure a veneer of Beverly Hills glitz that it might be better off without. And looking for other small mercies, losing Beckham greatly reduces the tattoo count.
Furthermore, this latest injury surely uses up Capello's ration of bad luck. He has had to sack his captain, the priapic John Terry, and Terry's successor Rio Ferdinand is struggling for fitness. His world-class left-back, Ashley Cole, is crocked, with no guarantee that he will be fit in time. Ditto the gifted winger Aaron Lennon. All of which, by all that is fair, should mean that Capello's primary weapon Wayne Rooney stays sharp until June. If he snaps anything, then we all might as well switch over to the cricket.
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