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Time to get over the Beckham bashing

Beckham profile for AC MilanOut of the many facets of modern football there has almost always been a particular constant over the last ten years, and that is the regularity and on occasion ferocity of contempt aimed at a certain David Beckham.


Criticism and all round 'stick' has forever been linked with team sports, this is a part of what supporters bring to a live game. We can be very fickle at times, though, and as much as is taken in criticism by players and managers, it will usually be counter-balanced by encouragement and adulation.




With Beckham there have been many highs and lows over the course of his career so far, but unlike most players he has always had more than his fair share of detractors. There are, of course, many other professional footballers who fans universally love to hate, Robbie Savage is probably at the top of that list for a significant number and likewise Craig Bellamy is not often well received outside of the City of Manchester stadium.


The difference in the case of Beckham is that he has had only one real incident where he fell victim to widespread derision. The World Cup of 1998 when Beckham was sent off against Argentina in the second round, led to vicious and, when put in context, unacceptable abuse towards him. Fans were justifiably upset with how he had needlessly put himself into a position where the referee had to give him the red card - but burning effigies was a bit much!


In fairness this is a relatively isolated incident when measured against the rest of Beckham's career, he has never really been a player who would play dirty or rile up supporters. Likewise he has managed to be remarkably dignified when considering some episodes of his career. Imagine, for example, how Cristiano Ronaldo would have reacted in the press if Ferguson had kicked a football boot at his face.


There is no denying that Beckham has had disciplinary problems at times. At Real Madrid he was sent off on several occasions and often booked, but overall he is regarded as a fair and honest player. Perhaps too honest if you remember his 'deliberate' and 'tactical' yellow card for England during the Euro 2004 qualifiers, which left him suspended whilst injured. What is it then generally that has often made him a bone of contention and the source of many a football argument?


Some of the most quotable criticisms of Beckham have revolved around his level of fame and have regularly been linked to his wife Victoria (or Posh if you prefer). I understand that she can come across as an unlikable sort on occasion, and yes at his height the couple were constantly in the papers for reasons other than footballing ones. It has been entertaining for the public at large to comment on sarongs and extra-marital affairs, but when soaking up these reports and images people would do well to remember that the press chase such expose.


To this day Beckham has suffered attacks that are linked to the profile of his wife and the gossip columns. That isn't to belittle the times when like all players he has rightly had his performances questioned on the field of play, but if detail is given to how his career has panned out, he deserves more when you look at it. Clearly statistics aren't the be all and end all, but he has carved out an impressive career to date.


At Manchester United he won all the major trophies on offer; six Premiership, two FA Cup and of course the Champions League. In that final at the Nou Camp he set up both goals for Manchester Utd, as they miraculously snatched victory from Bayern Munich. It is less noted because the goal scorers gain the glory, that is how it works, but it is an example of how Beckham has been throughout his career. One of the admirable things has been his level of consistency, during his earlier England captaincy, there were times when his effort and commitment dragged the team onwards.


The free kick he scored against Greece in the final 2002 World Cup qualifier is the best remembered. It was a great moment even if it only got England to the tournament, but there were many other England internationals of that era too, when Beckham ran around like a man possessed for the good of the cause.


At Real Madrid he managed what too few British players have over the years - playing well for a great team in another major European league. He was a part of one of the club's more barren periods, but he still delivered, literally as he set up countless goals. Outlasting all the other Galacticos at the club he managed to overcome adversity and play a part in the title triumph of Fabio Capello's team.


The way that he reacted to being dropped at Real Madrid by the future England manager, was certainly commendable and ultimately very rewarding. It appears that he has made a lasting impression on Capello too, as the announcement of his squad for Wednesday has yielded another recall to England duty.


Surely with his recent form on loan at AC Milan there can be few who disagree that Beckham has earned his recent recall on merit. Still I have seen comments that excuse Beckham's return of two goals and assists in six games at Milan. Some people would have you believe that his form is due to a diminished standard in Serie A, or because of the quality of his team-mates, both of these are quite unfair in reality.


Serie A is far from its hey-day in the nineties but it still attracts some of the world’s most glamorous players and managers. Almost all of Italy's 2006 World Cup winning team were based in Serie A, so the league must be of a high standard. As for Beckham being carried by his new team mates, that is an unjustified remark. If anything, since his loan started a month ago the Milan team have played with more buoyancy.


I for one am pleased for Beckham, he seems invigorated playing in Italy, the slower pace of the games give him time to pick his passes and so far he's had a positive effect. It is difficult to tell if he will end up in Serie A on a permanent basis, but there are already many denouncing his time at LA Galaxy. It is especially relevant based on recent form to wonder why Beckham didn't go straight to somewhere like AC Milan, after he left Real Madrid.


Indeed, there were such offers being mooted at the time he decided to sign for LA Galaxy. A lot of the blame for the decision has been attributed to Mrs Beckham and her own career pursuits, personally I just think it's all endlessly tiresome after a short while of hearing it. When Beckham married a Spice Girl the couple's cult of celebrity intensified to huge proportions, but it has also led to much unwarranted sniping about his abilities.


The mill stone for Beckham is the lack of success for England, and he was the obvious major scapegoat at the end of the Eriksson era after the 2006 World Cup. In reality Beckham had scored or set up a majority of all of England's goals in the tournament. He resigned his captaincy but was soon to lose his place in the squad too. It was a bold move by McClaren but most people realised that Beckham was just the figurehead for a team of under-performers, and McClaren would later recall the midfielder just as Capello had done.


Whilst it is still some way off, the chances of Beckham making Capello's squad, for an expected trip to South Africa in 2010, are now looking like a real crowning possibility. For now we should just appreciate how consistently well David Beckham has played for three of the world's biggest clubs in the last fifteen years, that is an achievement. After all, he may be a little annoying sometimes, but at least it's not been Robbie Savage on TV all these years!

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