Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hargreaves Is in Pole Position to Step into Limelight

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hargreaves Is in Pole Position to Step into Limelight

Article excerpt

Byline: KEN DYER

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON must decide tonight who will be given the heavy responsibility of demonstrating that there is indeed life after David Beckham.

Beckham's absence has provided an opportunity for someone else to prove their worth and demonstrate that England are still capable of taking positive steps even without their troubled captain.

Whoever takes over from the suspended, injured and perhaps now repentant Beckham has plenty to prove.

Not only has he to try to establish himself as a bona fide international in his own right but he will also be aware that many will be looking to see if his performance in tonight's World Cup qualifier here is good enough to provide a credible alternative to Golden Balls or Tarnished Tonsils, depending on your point of view.

The opportunity to judge an England team without him does not present itself too often.

Since Eriksson began his reign as England coach in February 2001, Beckham has missed only one of England's competitive matches, the 2-1 home victory over Slovakia in June 2003.

Whenever he has been needed, either before or since that date, the Real Madrid star has stepped up to the plate - up to now, that is.

Owen Hargreaves or Eriksson's other alternatives, Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Phillips and Newcastle's Jermaine Jenas, will now have the chance of stepping into the talented boots of our erstwhile icon, for one match or more depending on the state of Beckham's ribs and the patience of FIFA.

To be honest, whichever of the those is given the job on the right side of midfield against Azerbaijan tonight, it should be enough for England to earn another three points towards automatic qualification for Germany in 2006.

As has happened in the past, all the fuss and bother surrounding Beckham has meant tonight's match has been marginalised to little more than a sideshow, something which must irritate the other England players no end.

Eriksson will address the Beckham question later but the game is what matters to fans. …

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