Jon Dunham - Beckham. A true England legend

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

It seems that this summer is the one for retirements as far as football is concerned.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Michael Owen and Jamie Carragher are high profile names in the game who will now be looking for other things to do once the middle of August comes around.

Even on a local scale we have seen Northampton Town defender Clarke Carlisle hang up his boots this week.

Football, certainly in the top flight in this country, is heading into a new era. The players I have grown up watching are moving aside and the next generation is coming through. It makes it as fascinating as ever.

But it was the announcement from David Beckham that he was retiring from playing that struck a chord with me.

I have written in these columns before that I have a big England fan and that remains the case. Whenever the bank account allows, I try to get to Wembley as much as possible to see the Three Lions (paying £40 or £50 is a pleasure compared to listening to some of the pundits on the television).

And while it is fair to say that the English national side hasn’t exactly flourished since I first took an interest in football in the late 1980s, there have been players who have become heroes for me. Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne are good examples.

But Beckham topped the lot as far as I was concerned.

Unlike some, I have always been able to look far beyond what club each player represents. To me, when they pulled on the white shirt they were England players and nothing else.

And every time Beckham pulled on that shirt, you knew it meant the world to him.

The fact that he had and, to a certain extent, still does have incredible ability always helped. But what he lacked in certain areas, he more than made up for in terms of passion and commitment to his country.

I always thought that was a given for any footballer. I always thought that if you were selected to play for your country then that was the pinnacle. Unfortunately, money and greed and the power of the Premier League in this country has ensured that is not always the case any more.

But Beckham bucked the trend. He will be, for a long time, one of the richest footballers to have ever lived. However, all the wealth in the world never prevented him from representing England in the way every player should.

He learned quickly from his only real mistake in an England shirt when he was sent off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.

He bounced back, got his redemption against that particular opponent and eventually took things to the next level with ‘that free-kick’ (I am sure every England fan remembers where they were that day).

The only one regret for Beckham and the fans was that he never got the chance to lift a trophy in the England shirt, although it wasn’t for the lack of trying on his part. And, if it’s any consolation, it will be some time before any England captain does.

But whether you liked him or loathed him, no-one can say to me that he didn’t care about playing for his country.

I, like many others, will regard him as a true England legend – a tag he has earned. Many others could (but probably won’t) learn a lot from him.