Beckham wins the World Cup

It was always though that during his career David Beckham would get his hands on the World Cup and today – as he lobbies delegates who will make the decision on England’s bid to host the 2018 competition of what is a very curious decision process – it seems that he may do.

Not – perhaps – something that will make up for the 2006 German summer where so much came to so little or the broken metatarsal in Japan in 2002 which saw England run out of steam against Brazil but an end to a career which may not have redefined football, but has certainly redefined footballers.

Beckham has been the poster boy for many things – Adidas, Sharpie, the 2018 bid – and all along his career he has been sighted as part of the over paid generation of footballers. Guilty often of little more than having a family and not being the sharpest tool in the box he has – as a player and as a personality – make a mountain out of his mount of talents and is as sinned against often as he is sinning.

His red card against Argentina was hardly the stuff of violent conduct, his early career exit from the England side hampered Steve McLaren’s side far more than it did the former captain’s career. His wife annoys a lot of people and his kids have curious names but he comes over with a certain charm and uses that charm to promote the campaign to host 2018 which we should all be behind.

So at some point tomorrow Beckham’s career might have the glorious conclusion suggested all along but Beckham is but the first of the multi-millionaire player to start the sail into the sunset.

If one assumes a player might have a dozen years playing on the sort of big Premier League contracts that the likes of Frank Lampard, Keiron Dyer, Steven Gerrard have – and we read on BfB about Graeme Tomlinson and how he was advised to and looked after his money – then we may start to see players exiting the game who could have earned the thick end of thirty million pounds.

(£50,000 a week, multiply by 52 weeks a year, multiple by 12 and offset the idea of tax and living expenses against the income from investments)

Once a footballer might use his earnings to buy a pub running it for the next thirty years. Robbie Fowler used the money Leeds threw at him to become one of the biggest landlords in Liverpool offering decent housing at good rents. Few players are as in touch with the community they rose from as Fowler.

There have been the odd player who went to the boardroom – Steve McMahon, Derek Doogan, Jimmy Hill, Ray Ranson – they have done so as parts of consortia but with the levels of money being given to players by clubs that need not always be the case.

At the conclusion of his Liverpool contract Steven Gerrard (who would be 34, I believe) could – if he wanted to – wander over the Mersey to Tranmere and easily buy the club lock, stock and barrel. There would be nothing to stop him signing himself to play in midfield either, or making himself manager. A footballing version of the auteur.

Likewise the likes of Frank Lampard could bankroll any League Two club out of the division (if we judge by Notts County’s example last season) and probably (if we look at Dean Hoyle at Huddersfield) challenge for promotion in the league above.

Football people leaving football with a chunk of money and almost anything to spend it on, it seems inevitable that they will come back to what they know and end up back involved in football. A generation of players who don’t have to take coaching badges and then beg the odd fishmonger from Grimsby for a job at the local club. They can give the fishmonger what he wants and buy the boardroom for himself.

Beckham can cap his career tomorrow but he – and the generation he spearheads – may end up with an impact in the game far beyond the day they last pull on their boots.

Club v country

As Peter Taylor continues to quietly devise his plans for next season, a huge wave of approval from Bradford City supporters’ greets his every decision.

Impressing when handed a short-term deal last February, the Bantams boss currently enjoys high levels of popularity; and there is growing excitement and belief at what can be achieved next season. At times Taylor is receiving praise when he hasn’t necessarily done anything to deserve it, such is the level of goodwill. Come the big kick off on Saturday 7 August, a sold out City away end will roar on the players at Shrewsbury. The supporters will be right behind the team and management.

A huge contrast to the England national team right now. After a truly dismal 0-0 draw with Algeria on Friday, anger is widespread. The players were booed off the field by England fans in South Africa – and in thousands of pubs and homes up and down England. Wayne Rooney reacted badly, prompting further rage from fans. The country is not united in support of the team, the consequences of failure in the final group game on Wednesday aren’t worth thinking about it.

For us City fans, used to years of failure, it’s a scenario we know all too well. Team under-performs, leading to boos and angry reactions from fans, leading to the never-ending debate about what makes a good supporter and how paying money to watch the team entitles you to express your feelings. It will happen again next season, no matter how good a job Taylor does.

But though I sometimes despair at the way fellow City fans moan and heap over-the-top criticism on players and management, it’s a different type of anger to the public mood towards the England team. And even if England get it right on Wednesday and go onto lift the World Cup, you suspect it won’t quite prompt the level of joy we might imagine it would.

Whatever the merits of Rooney’s outburst, he had a point when he spoke about the loyalty of England supporters. This is not an attack on any fan or even a question of patriotism, but more how we really feel about those who wear three lions on their shirt. Quite simply, we don’t really like this English team. We don’t look upon them as national heroes in the way we did of Terry Butcher, Paul Gascoigne and Stuart Pearce. We don’t believe they feel the same way as us.

As almost every man, woman and dog has uttered since full time on Friday, England players are overpaid. At the best of times we don’t like that, but in the midst of economic turmoil and ahead of a week where we all might learn some bad news when the new coalition Government reveals its emergency budget, we especially hate players for it. Throw in some less than heroic behaviour from the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Rooney and Steven Gerrard, and we don’t exactly have the England team we’d aspire to cheer on.

Which means the mood towards the players can be lukewarm at best, and when it goes wrong we throw our anger about them being overpaid and badly-behaved back in their faces. They are guilty of crimes we cannot really ever forgive them for. We’d all love Ashley Cole to score the winner against Spain in the World Cup Final, but few will be calling for a statue of Cole to be erected, or ever feel warmth towards him that a generation continue to hold towards Geoff Hurst.

So no, we’re generally not loyal supporters – but with good reason. And while the reaction to England’s draw with Algeria is comparable to when City were defeated by Accrington last February, the fact we supporters responded by travelling in numbers to league leaders Rochdale three days later and passionately cheered on those same players who let us down says much about the difference between club and country.

Taylor is currently being praised for the urgent manner he has gone about getting next season’s squad ready, but when you look at it more closely he has so far only brought in two players who didn’t pull on a Bradford City shirt last season. What he has done is re-sign the bulk of last season’s team – that’s the team which led the club to a lowest league finish since the 70’s – and we couldn’t be happier.

However disappointing last season was, watching the team when it was on form was hugely enjoyable. Whatever criticisms you want to continue throwing at Stuart McCall, he got his signings right last summer and City were only lacking two or three players and a heap more luck then they were granted during December and January. Who can forget the standing ovation the players received after losing at home to Crewe? They exasperated us at times, but a meaningful affinity was built between the team and supporters. How can we ever cheer the ‘overpaid’ Emile Heskey in the same manner we do James Hanson?

And we’re no different to other clubs. Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United supporters will be disappointed with their team’s overall performance last season, but in defeat they did not turn around and start hammering the players for being overpaid. Steven Gerrard did not have a good season for Liverpool, but his wage packet was never an issue to Reds supporters in the way his under-performance for England on Friday was to the country. They generally stayed behind the bulk of their players.

Which shows the difference in loyalty for your club and loyalty for your country. I admit I’m not really an England supporter and to me international football is usually a pain because it means Match of the Day won’t be on, or a welcome respite during the summer when the gap between City seasons seems so long. But even for passionate England fans, what exactly have been the highlights over the last few years? Euro 96 was fantastic, the Beckham-inspired 2-2 draw with Greece and 5-1 demolition of Germany in ’01 superb. After that I’m struggling. Certainly nothing to match the feelings of joy we experienced during the high points of City’s very disappointing 2009/10 season, or any other.

So as I read comments from England fans demanding Rooney be dropped to teach him a lesson – or worse, from some, that he dies – I feel prouder to be a Bradford City supporter and know what really matters. We City supporters have our arguments and the booing and moaning at games can get me and others down, but at the end of the day we all deeply care for the same cause and when it does go right it means so much more than anything our national team can ever do for us.

Bradford City win promotion next season or England to lift the World Cup? I know where my loyalty lies.

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