Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Beckham Puts on a Bold Front

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Beckham Puts on a Bold Front

Article excerpt


DAVID BECKHAM today delivered one of the most assured and defiant performances of his public life as he promised the nation that he and his beleaguered football team would play their hearts out for England here in Istanbul tomorrow.

Near the end of one of the most traumatic weeks possible for the domestic game, Beckham fronted up before a fevered, sceptical audience on the eve of the crucial Turkey fixture here, defying anyone not to believe him when he declared: "We are all passionate about playing for our country."

The ins and outs of why the captain and his supposedly mutinous crew embarked on their misguided actions this week may only have been addressed in a short, not particularly revealing statement. Yet, as damage limitation exercises go, what followed showed there could have been no better front man than Beckham.

"There's no doubt the nation is behind us now," he said - and he made it sound like a fact not a hopeful claim.

His worried-looking minders from the Football Association didn't want him uttering anything about all the off-field dramas yet Beckham was at least pretty convincing as he was prepared to defend his men against any suggestion that they were a pampered bunch who had lost the sympathy of the nation.

"I don't think our fans have lost sympathy with us," he said. "They are very passionate about us winning games and once we step on to that pitch they'll see on the boys' faces what it means to us and that we have put it all behind us.

"Whatever people say about us and money, when we get on that pitch, winning is all that matters to us. If we can win tomorrow it will hopefully put everything to rest.

"The headlines will always be there as long as our wages are what they are but we are prepared to take that criticism. There's always pressure on us anyway and there's a lot more pressure on us now as a team after this week but we are strong enough to deal with it."

Here, Beckham demonstrated again that he, at least, appears to have the strength and statesmenship to see his players through what he described as a "very difficult" week, but a week which can only get a hell of a lot more difficult in Fenerbahce's stadium tomorrow.

This can have been no fun for him; being asked to face a seething group of critics from home, sitting there like vultures, and the usual Beckham-mania from his hosts.

Yet, somehow, he managed the trick of appearing to pacify everyone, particularly delighting his local audience with tales of how much he loved their country and how he wished the English team could have a barbecue with Turkish journalists "only we didn't have the right weather". Yet the difficult part was always going to be to try to convince the team's critics that his men can possibly be in the right state of mind to face such a demanding examination. …

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