David Beckham: A tribute to an icon

by James Clancy

Beckham AmendedI have a confession to make; I used to hate David Beckham.

I came to realise however that my ‘hatred’ was in fact jealousy. Beckham is of course a figure who divides opinion. Hated by many for his interests in fashion and celebrity lifestyle, I suspect that many of the haters are in fact simply jealous in reality.

There is of course much to be jealous of. Having had an immensely successful career which took him all over the world, being married to a former pop star, with four children and a fortune of more than £160million between him and wife Victoria Adams. David Beckham is the embodiment of the phrase “Living the Dream”.

Beckham was of course never the most talented of players. He made his career however from hard graft and then more hard graft to become arguably the best dead ball specialist and passer of a ball the English Premier League has ever seen.

Born and bred in east London, Beckham would of course be a Manchester United fan from birth! I suppose his excuse for this was that United was his mum and dad’s team so he was bound to follow suit and in fairness to the Beckham family, they supported The Red Devils through the comparatively lean 1970s and 80s as Beckham Junior honed his footballing abilities.

In an interview some years ago, Beckham said: “At school whenever the teachers asked, ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’ I’d say, ‘I want to be a footballer.’ And they’d say, ‘No, what do you really want to do, for a job?’ But that was the only thing I ever wanted to do.

Following a youth career spent at Tottenham and the now defunct Brimsdown Rovers, Beckham signed professional forms for Manchester United aged 16. He would go on to be an integral member of the famed Manchester United “Class of ’92″ – a side that swept all before them and provide such Manchester United mainstays as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers.

Beckham made his senior debut for United in 1992, but struggled to get into the starting line up as a skinny 17 year-old and was loaned out to Preston North End during the 1994-’95 season. He would go on to score twice in five appearances for The Lilywhites, most notably directly from a corner-kick and he cited that loan spell as “a time that really opened my eyes.”

Beckham quickly established himself on the right side of United’s midfield and would end the following season (1995-’96) with a Premiership and FA Cup winner’s medal.

On the first day of the following Premier League season, Beckham scored from the halfway line in the final minute of a 3-0 win over Wimbledon. The goal would be voted in various polls as “The Best Ever Scored in the Premier League” as Beckham helped United to retain their Premiership crown whilst being voted the PFA Young Player of the Year by his peers.

The summer of 1998 would see him play at his first major international tournament; the World Cup. Beckham became a hate figure in much of England as his red card against Argentina was blamed by many for England’s second round exit via a penalty shoot-out.

The following season, stewarding at stadia Manchester United played at had to be multiplied three or four fold (in particular any time Beckham approached to take a corner-kick). The then 23 year-old showed immense maturity however and wasn’t phased by burning effigies of himself or death threats to his new born child as he was a pivotal member of the United side which won an unprecedented Treble of Premier League, FA Cup and the Holy Grail: The UEFA Champions League.

The following season, he would help United retain the Premier League title, winning by a record margin of 18 points over second placed Arsenal.

The early years of the 2000s however saw a frosting of the relationship between Beckham and United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, possibly as a result of Beckham’s fame and commitments away from football. Ferguson stated in his autobiography that “David was never a problem until he got married. He used to go into work with the academy coaches at night time, he was a fantastic young lad. Now though, having married Victoria, he is such a big celebrity, football is only a small part of his professional life.”

Things would come to a head between Ferguson and Beckham in February 2003 when Ferguson famously kicked a boot in fury at Beckham’s forehead in the United dressing room. The blow from the boot left a gash that would need several stitches on Beckham’s brow. With this, the writing was on the wall for Beckham’s time at Old Trafford. Sure enough, that summer and shortly after being made an Order of the British Empire (OBE), Beckham joined Real Madrid for a fee of €35 million. In a team of Galacticos including Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Luisa Figo and Raul, Beckham was by some distance the biggest name.

Beckham would stay in Madrid until the summer of 2007. In January 2007 it was announced that he was to joined MLS franchise LA Galaxy. Madrid manager Fabio Capello said upon the announcement of the transfer: “David Beckham will not play for Real Madrid again.” Such was Beckham’s dedication in training however that five weeks later the veteran manager would proclaim:

It is a wise man who recognises and amends his mistakes. David Beckham will return to the Real Madrid starting line up immediately.

Beckham would go on to become a pivotal member of the Los Blancos side that would win that season’s La Liga title for the first time in four years.

Whilst those who viewed Beckham’s move to the USA as semi-retirement were being harsh, in reality it was the beginning of the end for Beckham’s career, though he would go on to win two MLS Cups in six seasons while scoring 18 goals from 98 appearances.

The final four months of his career would be spent at Paris Saint Germain and he would of course be successful in the French capital also, helping his side to win the French Ligue 1 title.

At international level, Beckham won 115 caps, the most of any outfield player (only goalkeeper Peter Shilton won more caps for England). Beckham would gain redemption for the aforementioned red card at the 1998 World Cup against Argentina by putting in a virtuoso performance against an up and coming Greece to secure qualification for the 2002 World Cup with an incredible free-kick in the dying moments of the final qualifier at of all places, Old Trafford.

That 2002 World Cup saw Beckham score the only goal of the game from the penalty spot against the Argentinians as The Three Lions were eventually narrowly eliminated at the quarter-final stage by the eventual champions Brazil.

Beckham captained England 58 times and stated:

For me, captaining my country will always be the proudest moment of my career. To recall the legends of the game who have gone before me wearing the captain’s armband for England and to know that I am representing all the fans of my country really is very special for me.

To add to all of his accolades, Beckham was twice voted FIFA World Player of the Year and is the only footballer to win top flight league titles in four different countries.

Off the pitch, Beckham had his ups and downs, but is overall a top class guy with a humble and respectful demeanour. He was never brash or offensive and always respectful, though a journalist’s nightmare because he would never come out with a great sound bite.

Beckham’s handsomeness and physique meant he was an advertisers dream as he made tens of millions of pounds from endorsements with ADIDAS, Brylcreem and Pepsi among a host of other top level global brands.

Speaking of Beckham’s retirement from the game, fellow former England captain Terry Butcher told Sky Sports News:

David Beckham has the most immaculate face of a man I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t even have a pimple. No wonder he’s a pin up!

So what next for David Beckham? His model looks and physique mean he will remain an advertiser’s dream for some time. Will he stay in this field for the foreseeable future or will he miss sport so much that he decides to stay in a football related role? He has stated that he does not want to get involved in the media or become a coach or manager. One wonders though when August comes and the season starts again might David Robert Joseph Beckham have a change of heart on that regard? One thing for certain is that his playing career is over with a legacy that has long since been secure.

 

Follow me on Twitter:         @hoogenband0110

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