June 30, 2010
Posted: 959 GMT
Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) – Germany did it with great success. Argentina and Brazil are doing it right now, and both teams are setting the pace in South Africa. Holland did it with less impressive results. But these great footballing nations weren’t afraid to try it - and now it’s time for the English Football Association to fast-track one of its favourite sons into managing the national side.
The FA has told Fabio Capello that he will learn his fate soon. Capello is a proud man with an enviable record in the game – he's a proven winner. But despite the hype surrounding his appointment - not to mention his wage demands – he has proved to be another disappointment for the FA and English football fans.
Capello should be let go and replaced by David Beckham. The FA’s hitherto unsuccessful policy of searching the planet for a coach has left the game’s commentators asking: Is this the only solution? Is the country that brought the game to the world now so tactically deficient that - like an emerging football nation - it needs to go and ask the experts for some help? And how much more compensation is the FA prepared to pay for sacking its big-name signings?
There are very few players – very few people – who know the England set-up as well as Beckham. This experience cannot be underplayed; several former international players have told me that being part of the England team – or any national side – is akin to being part of a club. It’s a way of life, with tradition, values and of course a unique set of pressures.
The case in favor of handing Becks the job is compelling. He has shown he is a born leader with the respect of his men. He is one of the most-capped players in England’s history, and has played in three World Cups. Only an injury prevented him from playing any part in a fourth this year.
But Beckham was in South Africa, condemned to the bench and kicking every ball with his teammates from afar. And this helps understand his key attribute: Beckham understands the importance of England to the fans. He understands that it is not enough to just pull on an England shirt.
More than any of his contemporaries, Beckham has the ability to balance the privileged position of the modern footballer with the determination to succeed for his country. Which other player would roll up his sleeves and drag the team to a World Cup finals in the way Beckham did against Greece in 2001?
And, of course, there is national pride. Both the fans and the FA need someone in the top job who is not only someone they respect, and not only someone with great football experience, but someone who can restore their belief. For some of the richest men in world sport, does an extra million dollars a year on their contracts really provide the necessary incentive to dedicate their hearts and souls to the cause? It’s impossible to judge.
Franz Beckenbauer was one of the most talented, most-capped players in the history of the game. After two short spells in the U.S. with New York Cosmos he returned to his native West Germany in 1984 as coach of the national squad. He took the team to two consecutive World Cup finals – winning the trophy in 1990.
Beckham may not make the team sheet in the all-time World XI, but he can be England’s Beckenbauer. Like the Germans in the 1980s, the FA needs to lure its hero back from the States, where he is still under contract with Los Angeles Galaxy. If it’s good enough for the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Germany, then it’s good enough for England too.