Is Beckham still fit for captaincy?

Sean Henderson scrutinises David Beckham’s suitability as England Captain for the World Cup

We have just over 6 months until we start our World Cup campaign in Germany. We have a captain with one of the worst disciplinary records of any England international and we have the captains of the European and domestic champions sitting idle whilst a player who is not even captain of his own club takes the helm. Is there enough justification to retain Beckham as captain given all of this?

It may seem from the abrupt introduction that I feel that Beckham is not fit to wear an England shirt, let alone be our captain. This is not true. I feel that Beckham is an excellent player and has grown into an excellent captain over the last 5 years. But I feel it is time to put the position under scrutiny. We have some of the best players in the world holing captaincies with their respective clubs who are seriously pushing the position of England captain. We also have seen a slow decline in the temperament of Beckham on both the club and international scene. Beckham has been sent off 3 times for Real Madrid this season and has become the first England player to be sent off twice for his country after his dismissal against Austria earlier in the year. Surely we should be questioning the conduct of the captain and the suitability of his behaviour. We have, and still have, a world-class player as captain. But do we have a world-class captain anymore?

The first candidate must surely be John Terry. He’s just turned 25. In his very first year as captain, he led his club Chelsea to the Premiership, Carling Cup and a semi-final place in the Champions League. Terry is a player who is consistently solid at the back, capable of digging deep to win games and has an ideal temperament. This is something that has appeared elusive to Beckham of late. The centre back role is a strong captain’s position on the pitch, central enough to command the team and far enough back to help get stuck in. He also has the ability to score goals when they are needed. A cool head and simple, solid play may be just what we need to guide us to glory in Germany.

Let us not forget the reigning European Champions captain and European footballer of the Year runner-up Steven Gerrard. Gerrard, who is also Captain of his club, has more international experience than Terry. An established and experienced international, winning the first of his 39 caps in May 2000, Gerrard has already played in two World Cups and has scored 6 goals for his country. Gerrard’s captaincy of Liverpool has seen him grow as a player into one of the leading players in the world. His role as captain has seen him turn around Liverpool as a team, culminating in the performance in the European Cup final against AC Milan last year. Being a central midfielder, I see in Gerrard what I saw in Beckham four years ago- a cool head on capable shoulders, leadership qualities beyond his years and the ability to make something out of nothing.

The English game requires a captain who can turn games, govern games, and win games. Beckham had this power, but his unpredictability on the pitch means that he is now unreliable. Both Gerrard and Terry share this gift – who is better is another debate. The diverse nature and durability of a team with such talent requires a captain who is a nucleus, but able to adapt. People doubted Beckham had these traits in 1998 when he kicked Diego Simeone. A fine display as Captain for 4 years may have proved them wrong for a while, but it seems that the adolescent that we saw in France ‘98 is back, kicking and screaming as before. Changing the captain before a World Cup is a chance, but so is playing a volatile captain with fiery young players such as Wayne Rooney. For me, it’s time for change. Steven, John, your country needs you!

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