Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Door remains open for axed Beckham

FINAL CURTAIN?New England manager Steve McClaren left the Real Madrid midfielder out of his first squad, but told him his international career was not necessarily over

AFP , LONDONAFP. LONDON

Real Madrid's David Beckham, right, signs a shirt for Jessica Hawkins after a training session on Friday in Salt Lake City. England head coach Steve McClaren on Friday left Beckham out of the squad for a friendly versus Greece on Wednesday. The coach has not completely shut the door on one of soccer's most glamorous and popular players, but McClaren is trying to build a national team without the 31-year-old midfielder. Madrid were due to play Real Salt Lake yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

New England boss Steve McClaren insists he will not be afraid to make more tough decisions after he swung the axe on David Beckham's international career.

Former skipper Beckham, along with fellow veterans David James and Sol Campbell, were the high-profile names missing from McClaren's plans as he named his first squad to face European champions Greece in a friendly on Wednesday.

McClaren, who succeeded Sven-Goran Eriksson after England's disappointing World Cup campaign, says the Beckham bombshell is part of a long-term plan aimed at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup finals.

He also said there was no pressure from the Football Association (FA)'s commercial department to keep Beckham in the squad.

"I've got the job and I want to approach it my way and make my decisions and live or die by them," said McClaren.

"There was certainly no commercial pressure to keep David Beckham in the squad. It is a football decision and I think everybody around the country and in the FA respected the decision I made," he said.

Beckham was told of the decision on Monday before he flew to the USA for Real Madrid's pre-season tour.

He took it on the chin, said he understood and told McClaren he would do everything he can to win back his place.

"Having spoken to Steve McClaren this week I can fully understand that a new manager should want to make his mark on the team and build towards the next World Cup," Beckham said in a statement.

"I'm proud to have played for England for 10 years and my passion for representing my country remains as strong as ever," he said. "I'd like to wish the best of luck to [new skipper] John Terry and will offer him my complete support in the future."

McClaren told Beckham, Campbell and James the door will never be closed but admitted he had started to think about a new direction for the team as soon he landed the job in April.

"As soon as I got the job and as soon as we were out of the World Cup and David relinquished the captaincy, my mind was focused on the job in hand," the manager said.

"That was getting together my backroom staff, picking a new captain and getting together a squad for the future," he said. "So it has never really been out of my thoughts since I actually got the job."

McClaren was on Eriksson's coaching team for the World Cup where England were knocked out in the quarter-finals.

It provided him with a close-up of the players at his disposal but he refused to criticize the displays of Beckham or anyone else in Germany.

The England boss said: "I'm not going to enter into a debate about the World Cup and people's performances there, about whether it was disappointing or whatever."

"There were lots of lessons to be learned and lots of things I took on board during that time which I hope will take me forward into this job," McClaren said. "All I will say is that it goes without saying that David Beckham is a great player, he's been a fantastic player for England and he's been a great captain."

"Now I've decided to move on from that. Let's talk about the future and younger players who are coming through who we want to establish in this team for Euro 2008," he said.

McClaren has picked four young wingers in his squad -- Aaron Lennon, Kieran Richardson, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stewart Downing.

Gary Neville, 31, is the only over-30 picked by McClaren and brother Phil wins a surprise recall.

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