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David Beckham showed class off the pitch too after Windsor loss

My view - Steven Beacom

By Steven Beacom

September 7, 2005. The word had gone out. No England players were giving interviews.

The only person talking following their 1-0 defeat to Northern Ireland at Windsor Park was coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

With that, the English journalists left the mixed zone, reserved for post match briefings, quicker than it takes John Terry to change into his full Chelsea kit and dashed to the press conference room 50 yards away to listen to Sven's explanations for the shock result.

All the better for the local press – more space to speak to jubilant Northern Ireland players, overwhelmed at what they had just achieved.

Most had been and gone when a familiar face wandered in. David Beckham, all hair, teeth and style.

Either he hadn't heard about the silence imposed on England players or there was one rule for him as captain and another for the rest of the defeated squad.

Regardless, I asked Becks for a chat and he couldn't have been more forthcoming, praising matchwinner David Healy and admitting that Northern Ireland had deserved their victory.

He was also keen to express his admiration of the raucous atmosphere inside Windsor and how he loved the people here and had done since he was a kid playing for Manchester United at the Milk Cup.

It all seemed genuine enough and judging by the reaction to the interview in this newspaper the next day, while England lost the game, Becks won many friends for his gracious comments.

As we finished, he flashed that famous smile and boarded England's luxury coach, though not before signing autographs for some grateful Northern Ireland fans, who had been ignored by most of his team-mates.

I'm telling you this guy could charm the birds off the trees.

Multi-millionaire, model, clothes designer, ambassador, mover, shaker, as well known as The Queen, husband to a Spice Girl and we're told brilliant dad, brand Becks has just about done it all.

I'd almost forgotten until yesterday, when he announced his retirement at the age of 38, that he was a footballer as well!

Once he joined LA Galaxy in 2007 it was hard to take that part of his life seriously.

Beckham played 115 times for England and won six Premier League titles and one Champions League when he was in his pomp at United.

He also played for Real Madrid, AC Milan and latterly Paris St Germain, winning 19 trophies in a 20 year career.

He's actually the only English player to win championships in four countries.

Hard working, an expert crosser of a ball and outstanding from set pieces, Beckham was capable of magical, memorable moments such as that last gasp free-kick against Greece that took England to the 2002 World Cup finals and the goal for United against Wimbledon from inside his own half.

But will he retire on May 26 as a true football great in the way, say, former team-mates like Zinedine Zidane and Roy Keane are considered?

I don't think so. Very, very good, but not truly great.

In terms of brand Becks though and his celebrity status, there's no doubt he has been a footballer in a league of his own, transcending the sport, doing it all the while with a touch of class.

You are welcome back to Northern Ireland any time, David.

Belfast Telegraph


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