David Beckham had a dream. He wanted to get 100 England caps. However, he was stuck on 94 and looking in serious danger of falling short of his vaunted tally after new England manager Steve McClaren, just 11 days into the job, left Beckham’s name off the team sheet for a friendly against Greece.
“I told David I was looking to change things, looking to go in a different direction, and he wasn’t included with that,” said McClaren at the time.
Beckham, who was aged 31 at the time, responded, somewhat pointedly: “I can fully understand that a new manager should want to make his mark on the team.”
The ‘will he won’t he?’ debate had been all over the media for days, mirroring the debate in the pubs of the land about whether it was Beckham the footballer or Beckham the personality that was really being talked about.
On the one side, David Platt fought Beckham’s corner in a debate in the Guardian: “The calls for his head are to do with his profile, not his ability.”
Elsewhere, the likes of Gerry Francis were fully behind McClaren’s revamp: “I think it’s time to bring Aaron Lennon in. Players like him are the future.” Hindsight, eh?
In the end, McClaren kowtowed and recalled Beckham in 2008 after a six-match run in which England scored only two goals. After his reinstatement, England won four of their next six games – thus putting them in a strong position to qualify for EURO 2008.
What happened after that is a bit of a blur. An unfortunate umbrella was involved, if I recall correctly.
Beckham, as it happens, went on to rack up 115 caps and never officially retired from international football – instead announcing his retirement from professional football altogether in 2013.