LONDON -- It looks like David Beckham will no longer be England captain after the World Cup.
Steve McClaren will take over as manager from Sven-Goran Eriksson at the start of August and, when the question of Beckham's captaincy was raised at his first news conference Thursday, McClaren didn't exactly give the Real Madrid star a ringing endorsement.
"That is something I don't want to discuss here," he said. "I don't think it's right to discuss here. We have got a World Cup coming up. That's my sole focus and attention on the squad and giving Sven my full support and backing.
"He's captain at the present moment under Sven."
Eriksson made Beckham the England captain early in his five-year reign as coach and there is a growing feeling that other players -- such as Chelsea centerback John Terry or Liverpool's Steven Gerrard -- might be better suited to the role.
At age 30, Beckham is almost certainly playing his last World Cup starting on June 9, and may not even be around as a player at Euro 2008, McClaren's first tournament in charge.
The Middlesbrough manager, Eriksson's assistant on a part-time basis for five years, has signed a four-year contract with the Football Association. Although he doesn't yet want to divulge his plans, he is likely to have his own ideas once Eriksson departs after the World Cup.
Although there are strong suggestions that McClaren was -- at best -- second choice for the England job, he says he has the right tools to do it.
"The FA had to pick the best man for the job and I believe they have. That's all that matters," he said after hearing that the FA interviewed Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari three times during its three-month search for Eriksson's successor. "I've got the knowledge, the experience, I've taken part in big games, won big games, been successful whichever club I've been to,and worked with top players. I've been around England for five years. I know the pressures and the scrutiny.
"I've stepped up from being No. 2 to being No. 1 where I have to make the final decision. That's something I'm very comfortable with and look forward to."
McClaren was Alex Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United and was at Old Trafford when the Reds achieved the triple crown of winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in 1999. While with England, he has helped Eriksson get the team to two World Cups and a European Championship, although the team hasn't gone beyond the quarterfinals of either.
After a friendly against Greece at Old Trafford on Aug. 16, McClaren has England's first European Championship qualifying games to deal with in September. He sees those games as the start of a long road to success.
"Over the next four years we have a possibility of winning a major tournament," he said. "I definitely believe that.
"This is about who is the best man for the job. Five years ago the FA decided the best man for the job was Sven. This time they've gone patriotic and they've gone English.
"I back that entirely because I believe it's true."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press