Posted: Monday August 14, 2006 12:21PM; Updated: Monday August 14, 2006 12:53PM
"It would have been hard," McClaren said, "if I didn't have the relationship I've got with him and if I didn't have the respect I have for him." So that made it easy? Wouldn't it have been easier to call Beckham in and say, "Look, I want to take this team in a different way but I don't want to embarrass you publicly. I know you've got 94 caps with the team. Why don't you stick around for the next two years and help me tutor some of the younger guys? You've already resigned as captain, so I'll put John Terry in there and you can help him with that role. You can get your 100 appearances, play a little bit in Euro 2008 and then retire at 33."
Instead McClaren has gone all-in, and anything less than a stellar run in Euro 2008 or World Cup 2010 means that McClaren will forever be known (at least on Wikipedia) as the man who sacked David Beckham.
And for what? In the long run, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon likely will replace Beckham on England's right side. (I'd love to see England play Ireland just to watch Lennon go up against fullback George McCartney.) But for the first game of the Beckham-less era, Wednesday against Greece, McClaren has reportedly selected Steven Gerrard to take over the right flank, besides appointing Gerrard as the assistant captain.
Now, I like Gerrard, and I particularly appreciate the way he seems to keep his head down and always plays hard. He lacks Beckham's flair for the dramatic, though his fiancée seems to be working on that. Yesterday in the News of the World, in an excerpt from Gerrard's imaginatively named autobiography, Gerrard: An Autobiography, Gerrard describes walking into the England locker room just before a friendly earlier this season when he was being asked to play out of position, only for one game.
"I was gutted when I walked into the Old Trafford dressing room for the warm-up game against Hungary and saw the No. 9 shirt hanging on my peg. Talk about pressure. That's a recipe for me being destroyed. Get real."
I don't know, but he seems like a glass-half-empty guy to me. As it turns out, McClaren chose Terry as the new captain. When you think about it, he's a logically diametric replacement for Beckham: Terry looks like a bit like Sid Vicious, was once charged with "affray" after being in a club brawl and has never (to my knowledge) been photographed wearing a skirt in public. At the same time, Terry is already the captain of Chelsea's extraordinarily well-compensated squad, so he probably has at least a general understanding of the complexity of dealing with the modern athlete.
Just days after the pronouncement, the word "Beckham" doesn't even appear on the English national team's Web site. And while McClaren threw Beckham a bone yesterday by saying that he'd still consider him for a place on the team in the future, the truth is that England just hasn't been good enough the last few years, and Beckham had to take the fall, because that's what we make our superstars do. We raise them high and then we chew 'em up and spit 'em out.
It was just David Beckham's turn.
Game of the Week
Since we're on soccer/football this week, here's a combination golf/soccer game sent along by reader CJ. It was a little slow on my computer, but it still rates well as a time-waster.