As David Beckham calls on the FA to appoint an Englishman as the next national team boss, football commentator and sports writer John Anderson asks if Beckham is eyeing up the job for himself.
Just a glance at the myriad of tattoos which adorn much of his upper body tells you that David Beckham is a man who wears his heart, almost literally, on his sleeve. This week, from his base in Los Angeles, he has been giving forth his opinions on the Olympics, Wayne Rooney and the poisoned chalice that is the England manager’s job.
His assertions that he would love to play at London 2012 and that the suspended Rooney should go to Euro 2012 offer little in the way of revelation. But on the subject of the national team coach, his comments may reveal a deeper motive.
Two years ago Beckham won the last of his 115 caps, a record for an England outfield player eclipsing even the likes of Bobby Moore and Sir Bobby Charlton. Nearly two-thirds of those appearances came under the aegis of a foreign coach, be it Sven Goran-Eriksson or Fabio Capello. But now the former national team captain insists it is time for an Englishman to lead the nation when the Italian incumbent retires after Euro 2012.
He did not discuss specific candidates but the list of potential suitors is short and fairly inauspicious. Were the Football Association to agree with Beckham that “every Englishman would want an English manager” (and Club England supremo Adrian Bevington has hinted that they do), the hot favourite would be Harry Redknapp.
But the Spurs boss, though doubtless keen to do the job, is just four months off pensionable age and currently recovering from a heart operation.
Below him, the only other Englishmen currently managing Premier League clubs are Steve Bruce, Roy Hodgson, Neil Warnock and Alan Pardew. With the greatest respect, it is hardly a shortlist which will have England fans staging impromptu street parties.
So do Beckham’s comments this week suggest that he himself would, one day, like a crack at the job?
So do Beckham’s comments this week suggest that he himself would, one day, like a crack at the job? And if so, does he have what it takes to succeed in what is often described as the only position in the country worse than being prime minister?
His CV boasts vast international experience as a player, but that in itself is not enough. The aforementioned Charlton and Moore both failed as managers and, of England’s 1966 World Cup winners, only Jack Charlton went on to manage at international level.
Indeed, the Premier League spoils have largely been shared between Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho who, as players, were not fit to lace Beckham’s boots. True, some national footballing icons have gone on to coach their countries successfully, but for every Franz Beckenbauer there’s a Diego Maradona.
To his credit, Beckham is the anti-Maradona; polite, soft spoken, charming and surprisingly self-effacing. These are qualities that have made him popular with Fifa mandarins and the football media alike and are well-suited to the various ambassadorial roles which he has undertaken with great tact and grace. But they are hardly traits which could be applied to the likes of Ferguson or Mourinho. Theirs is a rage for perfection which, if he does possess at all, Beckham has kept well hidden.
Beckham’s influence clearly had little or no impact on a team whose uninspired and disharmonious demeanour was borne out by a dreadful campaign in South Africa.
We might have got some hints during last summer’s World Cup when Beckham was invited by the FA to join the England squad as a mediator between Capello and the players. With the Three Lions now on his tracksuit rather than his shirt, Beckham’s influence clearly had little or no impact on a team whose uninspired and disharmonious demeanour was borne out by a dreadful campaign in South Africa.
International football management is an often lonely existence at a school of hard knocks in which results are everything and pressure is unremitting. Mental toughness, ruthless efficiency, single mindedness, self belief and an iron will all go to make up the psyche of the modern game’s top bosses.
Does Beckham have golden brains as well as golden balls? I somehow doubt it.