England Camp Focus - From one icon to the next - Beckham to Rooney
As a nation, we are currently musing over the news that David Beckham looks certain to miss out on this year’s World Cup to be held in South Africa. The 2010 tournament would have been Beckham’s fourth appearance and after failing to be a part of a successful campaign previously, he would have been desperate to have added the world prize to a glittering career.
Over his thirteen-year long international career, Beckham has instilled himself as a footballing institution - to not have Beckham in an England campaign seems like an oddity and one that will not seem real until Fabio Capello announces his 23 man squad in May. Although Capello, and current loan club AC Milan have said that there will always be room for Beckham should he make a full recovery, his injury and subsequent omission from the England World Cup setup is symbolic of a changing period in English football. We have seen Wayne Rooney take Michael Owen’s place as England’s main goalscorer, Rio Ferdinand replace John Terry as captain, an Italian take charge of the nation's favourite sport and now, England’s greatest footballing icon is seeing his career slowly diminish. Whether Beckham warranted one of the 23 places is debatable but it would be difficult to suggest that this injury has not affected England’s build up significantly. Although opposing nations realise Beckham’s ability had been dwindling with age and his consistent presence in a game had began to wane, England seem to be a very different prospect without him. The footballing world knew what he could do - one kick of the ball, as Greece found out, was enough to completely change the game and with Beckham's immense pride, England always had someone to carry them.
England’s two remaining experienced midfielders, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, do not carry the same weight as Beckham - masters of their trade they may be but Beckham was something completely different, something special. That duty has now been passed on to Sir Alex Ferguson’s next great English protégé, Wayne Rooney. With Rooney's incredible goalscoring streak continuing and the comparisons being made between him and the world’s best, England have found their inspiration. As we saw in the Carling Cup final, Rooney is capable of producing that moment of brilliance to deflate a side and, although an overused phrase, single-handedly win a game. Whilst Gerrard is also capable of similar excellence, Rooney will now define English football in the upcoming years, just like Beckham did. Whether the Manchester United forward can do something that Beckham never did, and win a major tournament with England is debatable but the Three Lions should feel safe in the knowledge that as one footballing icon drifts away, a new one is preparing to take centre stage.
With Beckham now seemingly out of the picture and with Head Coach Capello’s post-injury reaction suggesting that Beckham had a seat on the plane, that said seat is up for discussion and there are several players that will be hoping to replace the 34-year-old. Sentiment aside, Beckham’s place on the plane was one of the more dubious ones - he has not featured often this season with Milan and barring a 30-minute Man of the Match deserving performance against Belarus in the World Cup qualifying stages, his impact was subsiding into the occasional cameo. As enjoyable as it is to see Beckham’s calmness and eye for a Hollywood pass, perhaps England needed that extra space to help Capello in his midfield dilemma. Currently, there are several players staking their claim and with Aaron Lennon’s fitness now looking increasingly poor in the immediate build up, eager wingers now have a great chance to provide Capello with something new. James Milner has been touted as England’s versatility man and looks like a capable replacement for Beckham on the right-hand side. Out on the right-wing, the position that became almost synonymous with David Beckham over the years, a new name has entered the fold with significance. As Gerrard looks likely to start on the left, Adam Johnson’s recent performances will be giving Capello food for thought - although one goal does not constitute a player capable of playing in a World Cup - Johnson’s efforts since joining Manchester City in January have been admirable and he has now joined the likes of Ashley Young, Joe Cole, Stewart Downing and Shaun Wright-Phillips in the battle for midfield places.
Whatever happens between now and the start of the World Cup, and whoever replaces Beckham, there will be the unrelenting feeling of strangeness that England are entering a tournament without the man that has been typifying everything English about football since that goal against Wimbledon all those years ago. It is a crying shame that Beckham will not be there but now with a truly world class player, Wayne Rooney may be the man to take in England in to the next generation.
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ECF- From one icon to the next - Beckham to Rooney
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