Monday, March 15, 2010

A personal disappointment, not a crisis

The news that David Beckham will miss the World Cup is unsurprisingly making the Monday sport headlines. A record fourth appearance at the finals by an English player would have been a fine achievement and the removal of that chance is a crushing blow for Beckham, but his torn Achilles tendon does not represent an injury disaster for England.

Losing any potential candidate for the final squad is bad news for Fabio Capello and if the injuries keep piling up they will have a negative impact on England's World Cup odds. However, the loss of Beckham is not an insurmountable problem. If there is one position that England are well-stocked, it is the right midfield berth.

If all the likely contenders for the position were fit, Beckham would quite likely have missed the plane to South Africa anyway. Aaron Lennon, Shaun-Wright Phillips, Theo Walcott and James Milner are all better right wing prospects - exciting attacking players who offer more but are perhaps more of a gamble than the safe pair of hands that is the former skipper.

However, Lennon is enduring his own injury nightmare, while Walcott and Wright-Phillips are not playing enough for their clubs due to injury niggles and poor form. Beckham would therefore have been an attractive option for his consistency and reliability and he certainly wouldn't have passed up the chance to play World Cup 2010 football.

Matches rarely pass Beckham by like than can for Wright-Phillips and Walcott and there was always the suspicion that the Three Lions would lack crossing accuracy and dead ball expertise without Beckham. David Bentley, his natural successor, has probably not done enough at Tottenham to earn a recall and is also currently injured.

Joe Cole, once a certain England starter, might benefit, but time is running out for the Chelsea man. Beckham will receive sympathy from Capello but the manager will be more worried about Lennon, a player whose potential absence would represent a crisis as well as a personal disappointment.