Thursday, August 7, 2008

David Beckham - The Footballer, United Born and United Bred

The following is an amazing article on one of my favorite players in football..
have a read..

David Beckham - The Footballer, United Born and United Bred.
By Srikanth Meka • April 14, 2008

David Beckham. Mega Brand, Fashion Icon, Multi Millionaire, Footballing Superstar,.. are amongst the few things that spring to one’s mind when they hear the name. What strikes me is the image of a blue eyed boy doing what he had lived to do, play football for Manchester United Football Club. The super cars, the multi-million dollar endorsements, the celebrity wife, the Hollywood lifestyle are all glossy make up on a mask.Beneath the mask is Becks, A cockney lad who grew up idolising Manchester United and ended up living his dream, playing for United.

Born in Leytonston, London, Becks was born to fanatical United supporters, Ted and Sandra Beckham. He promptly inherited the love for United from his parents at a very young age. A seven year old Becks would go around telling anyone who was willing to listen what he would do when he grew up, “I’ll play for Manchester United”. Becks accompanied his father, an avid footballer on Sunday league games, and would spend hours kicking the ball around. He started playing organised football for Ridgeway Rovers Youth team which was coached by his father and two of his friends. At 11, he won a nationwide skills competition organised by Bobby Charlton’s Soccer Schools and made his first appearance at Old Trafford, collecting his trophy from the United Legend at the half time interval of a United-Spurs game.

At 13, he joined local Brimsdown Rovers Youth team, still concerned that he was playing his youth football too far away from Manchester for United Scouts to notice. One evening, His dad let him know that a United coach had spotted him play and were impressed enough to give him a trial. Young David erupted into tears of joy, hugging everyone in sight. The wheels to his United career were set in motion. In the meanwhile he also had stints at Leyton Orient and Tottenham Hotspur’s Scool of Excellence. He turned up in a United kit on his first day at the latter; that was David, hardly apologetic about the fact that he was Reds supporting cockney, flaunting it on every opportunity he could. He would turn up in the United dressing room in every of their London game’s thereafter.

Becks signed schoolboy forms with United on his fourteenth birthday and later shifted to Manchester to begin his footballing education at Manchester United.His signing was all done under the watchful eyes of Alex Ferguson who met the schoolboy personally and signed the schoolboy contract on United’s behalf. His batch-mates at the United academy included Ryan Giggs(a year senior),the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Kieth Gillespie,Robbie Savage and Simon Davies amongst others,all of who went on to become good professional footballers from there on.Being a cockney lad from London, it took the local lads time to allow Becks into their fold, Becks love and passion for United showed soon enough to break those shackles. Two years under the watchful eyes of Eric Harrison, Brian Kidd and Alex Ferguson resulted into the blossoming of the finest young footballers into promising professionals,Fergie’s Fledglings as they came to be popularly known, the Class of 92. Becks started out out a central midfielder, but such was the competition for places in central midfield that he had to shift to the right wing.

The Fledglings’ capped their graduation winning the FA Youth Cup in 1992. Becks made his senior debut for United in a League Cup match against Brighton and Hove Albion the same year. He played reserve team football for a year and had a stint at Preston North End on loan in the 1994–95 season to get some first team experience.He returned to United the following season and announced his coming of age to the world with ‘that’ goal, lobbing Wimbeldon keeper Neil Sullivan from inside his own half. And that happened to be my first concrete memory of United as well. Growing up in Baldwin’s (a convent set up by the British from the north-east of England) where football was a religion, Manchester United was the name that always rung around the school. Although it was the time Cantona was ruling Old Trafford as ‘the King’, strangely Becks’ coming was the first ‘hard’ thing I can recall about the club. And so began two journey’s along parallel paths, mine and his. Today a global superstar, back then Becks was like every single one of us United fans, only that he was ‘living the dream’.

Becks started regularly from then on, replacing the mercurial Andrei Kanchelskis more than ably, ‘winning the league with the kids’ in 1996. He went on take the United No.7 shirt on Cantona’s retirement, and with it the mantle of United legends like George Best and his immediate predecessor, Eric Cantona. If flair was what was needed to grow into the No.7 shirt, he had none of it. Like George Best himself commented,”He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn’t score many goals. Apart from that he’s all right“.But what he had was, arguably the greatest right foot of all time and a dogged determination and passion to play the game. Playing in a United shirt was all he ever wanted, and he went about each game like it was his last. Work-rate, dedication, vision and commitment were what his game was built on. He capped those qualities with what he could do with that right foot of his. Stunning free kicks, irresistible crosses, solid corners and impossible cross-field passes were the icing on the cake.

Playing with a group of people he had grown up learning the game, Becks played the game with a certain degree of freedom and flamboyance that is hard to explain. For instance,on a counter-attack, while Giggsy and Co would burn the pace to get to the opposition goal, he would stroll to the half way line with the ball.And with the turn of an eye he would deliver a pinpoint cross to the man he wanted from 50 yards away. Why would you want to run 45 yards to make a 5 yard pass when you can do all the same from where you are! On another occasion,against Birmingham City, a Veron pass found him 30 yards from goal with the goalkeeper stranded halfway between him and the post.Anyone would have gone a few yards more and slid an easy finish either side of the keeper,not Becks.He coolly chipped the goalkeeper from where he was.This was not arrogance, just supreme confidence in his abilities, something he had acquired from hours of dedicated practice.This was his pinch of genius, the ability to pick out a man from anywhere he wanted and sink stunning free kicks into the back of the net.

Becks returned from the 1998 World Cup a national villain, getting red carded against Argentina for a cynical retaliating kick ending England’s run in the tournament. Becks returned home to a huge outcry of anger and hate. Whereas he got booed on every single opposition ground in the country that season, United fans applauded him for every single corner and free kick he stepped up to take. “Stuff the rest,We love you Becks” was the message United fans gave Becks.Becks responded and how! In what was the greatest season a club could have, We ended up winning the Treble with Becks playing a pivotal role all along and providing the telling corners on ‘that’ night in Barcelona.

‘David Beckham’ was soon gaining more media attention than ever before.Success with the club along with his personal life,dating Spice Girl Victoria Adams, thrust Becks into the limelight.Soon, he would become one of the most most recognisable faces on the planet. United dominated in Engalnd and Beckham donned the role of ambassador of the club to take it to heights of its popularity around the world. A stunning free kick in the dying seconds of the game against Greece sent England to World Cup 2002, and forever erased any bad memories of World Cup 98. Becks was a national hero.

His choice of lifestyle and revelling under the media attention never affected what he did on the pitch. He was as determined and committed as ever. But it slowly started to have an effect on his relationship with manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The strains began to show in the relationship with several off-pitch incidents not helping the cause. After a loss to Arsenal in a FA Cup fifth round match, Sir Alex kicked a stray boot in frustration and it hit,of all people, Becks on the eye.He appeared the following day with a cut on his right eyebrow, and the English tabloids went overboard on the story speculating his exit from the club. He was dropped to the bench for the home game of the Champions League quarter finals against Real Madrid amidst speculation that he had agreed to join the club in the summer. He came off the bench and put in a superlative display and scored a stunning free kick to answer the questions raised against his commitment to the club. United won the title back from Arsenal in a stunning comeback after trailing them for most of the season. Accounts from various sources later confirmed that he had not held talks with anyone until the day United called him to tell him of their decision to sell him. David Beckham transferred from Manchester United to Real Madrid in July 2003 for 25 million pounds.

He went on to play 4 seasons for Real Madrid,winning a La Liga title, before transferring to LA Galaxy for a record five year contract of 250 million dollars.

Becks was like every single one of us, just a lot more talented and infinitely more famous.He loved the club to bits. He leapt out of his seat in joy right in the middle of a Real Madrid Press Conference on hearing the news of United winning the 2006-07 League title, much to the amusement of the watching reporters. Whilst watching him play, he brought out a certain something out of us that no one else could, and is hard to explain. Who knows what would have happened if that stray boot ended up anywhere else but his eye. Who knows what would have been if the series of events that strained his relationship with the manager had turned out differently from what they have.

Becks endorsed and enjoyed the lifestyle that arguably cut short his United career.Would he in hindsight have done things differently if he knew what was to come?Nonetheless, We love Becks for whatever he was, not for what he could have been.

Becks should be remembered along the same lines as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Roy Keane. It was just a tryst with destiny that ended up with him not finishing his career at United.

Great love stories, they say, never have the perfect ending. Becks’ with United was no exception. Great love stories,albeit a sad ending, are told on for generations. Becks’ and United’s should be too.

David Beckham ‘Once a Red, Forever a Red’ Legend.


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Srikanth Meka
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