Beckham axed from England squad

August 11, 2006

LONDON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - David Beckham was left out of new England coach Steve McClaren's first squad on Friday, raising speculation that his international career is over.

GettyImages / PhilColeThe new boys: (L-R) Assitant England manager Terry Venables, manager Steve McClaren and Captain John Terry.

Beckham, who quit as captain after England's quarter-final exit from the World Cup in July, did not feature in McClaren's list of 25 for next Wednesday's home friendly against Greece.

But the 31-year-old Real Madrid player swiftly signalled in a statement to Reuters that his passion to play for England remained 'as strong as ever'.

Former Arsenal defender Sol Campbell and goalkeeper David James were also omitted from the squad while McClaren announced that ex-England coach Terry Venables would be his assistant.

West Ham United striker Dean Ashton and Tottenham Hotspur defender Michael Dawson were handed the chance to win their first caps and there were recalls for forwards Jermain Defoe and Marcus Bent, both surprisingly left out of the World Cup squad by former coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

'I spoke with David last Monday and notified him of my decision,' McClaren told a news conference.

'I told him I was planning for the future, looking to change things and go in a different direction, and David wasn't included within that.

'I have great respect for David, he has been a fantastic captain for England, a great player and still is a great player.

'He took it well although he was disappointed, but I got the reaction that I wanted which is that he will continue to fight for his place and I will never close the door.'

McClaren said he liked speedy wingers on either flank and Beckham did not fit into that category. 'I wanted to establish a team for 2008 (European Championship). I like width, I like pace and I like penetration,' he said.

'We'll do it my way with the players I've picked and I'll live and die by it. I am the head coach and it's my decision at the end of the day.'

Beckham limped off with an Achilles tendon injury during England's defeat by Portugal on July 1 and the following day announced that he was standing down as captain after six years.

In his statement after he was dropped on Friday, Beckham said: '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.

'I'm proud to have played for England for 10 years and my passion for representing my country remains as strong as ever.'

McClaren's association with Beckham goes back to the days when he was assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but he did not let sentiment get in the way of his thinking as he made his first big decision as England coach.

It now opens the question of whether Beckham, who has 94 caps, 58 as captain, will reach a century of appearances, a feat managed by only four other England players.

Beckham, who made his England debut in 1996, became the first England player to score in three World Cups when he netted the winner against Ecuador in June.

Despite standing down as captain, Beckham had insisted that he still wanted to be part of McClaren's plans, although many have questioned his value to the team with the emergence of younger players in his position.

Tottenham Hotspur's Aaron Lennon, who is in the squad, is widely tipped to replace Beckham on the right side of midfield as is Chelsea's Shaun Wright-Phillips, back in favour after not being picked for the World Cup by Eriksson.

The leader of England's so-called golden generation, Beckham's hopes of emulating the late Bobby Moore by captaining his country to a first major trophy since 1966 have always ended in frustration and despair.

Beckham's highlights in an England shirt include his fantastic last-minute free kick against Greece in 2001 which rescued a 2-2 draw and a place in the 2002 World Cup finals and his penalty winner against Argentina in Japan.

There have been some lows, however, most notably his red card against Argentina at France 98 for a kick at Diego Simeone - an act that led to vilification at home.

On Thursday, Chelsea defender John Terry was named as Beckham's successor as captain by McClaren.

'He has great hunger and desire to succeed and plays with great passion,' McClaren said of the man he has entrusted to lead the team to the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland.

Squad:

Robinson (Tottenham), Kirkland (Liverpool), Foster (Man Utd); Bridge (Chelsea), Brown (Man Utd), Carragher (Liverpool), A Cole (Arsenal), Dawson (Tottenham), Ferdinand (Man Utd), G Neville (Man Utd), P Neville (Everton), Terry (capt, Chelsea), Young (Charlton); Downing (Middlesbrough), Gerrard (Liverpool), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Jenas (Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Lennon (Tottenham), Richardson (Man Utd), Wright-Phillips (Chelsea); Ashton (West Ham), Bent (Charlton), Crouch (Liverpool), Defoe (Tottenham).