Tag Archives: David Beckham

Leeds Front-Runner Hockaday Mirrors Beckham Experience – by Rob Atkinson

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Dave “Who??” Hockaday

With only two weeks to go until the World Cup in Brazil, former England captain and global superstar David Beckham has been back in the media spotlight. A camera crew has followed the intrepid Essex boy deep into the Amazon jungle where this veteran of footballing conflicts with the likes of Diego Simeone and the Sir Alex Taggart hair dryer has encountered more natural perils such as snakes, alligators and mosquitoes.

The biggest shock for the former Premier League pin-up boy, though, was the discovery that – a mere 800 miles into the usually impenetrable rain forest of the Amazon basin – there lives a tribe of people who have never heard of him. Think of that. A whole group of villagers who have lived, moved and had their being in total ignorance of the identity and global celebrity of David Joseph Beckham.

It really does defy belief – particularly as there is a thriving Spice Girls fan club in this remote outpost. Or perhaps that’s just a mischievous rumour. Whatever the case, the fact is that just about the most famous sportsman on the planet had to journey far, far into the back of beyond to find a spot where his name and fame have failed to reach.

Spookily, the surprises don’t end there. Although these rustic and agricultural people are blissfully unaware of the global celebrity of Mr Beckham, it turns out that they worship as a god another football personality entirely – one whose name is unknown practically everywhere else on the globe, with the possible exceptions of Blackpool, Swindon and Hull.

Paradoxical as it may seem in a society innocent of any trace of Beckham mania, it is the almost totally anonymous front-runner for the Leeds job, Dave Hockaday, who is revered and idolised by these simple farmers and tillers of the Brazilian earth. Ignorant alike of the magic of Beckham’s right foot and the legendary reputations of some of the world-renowned giants he’s played for (as well as Man U), the villagers ignored him completely – and yet plied the former Real and DC United star’s camera crew for more details of Hockaday, the man they venerate as a local deity.

What about Dave’s goal-scoring exploits at Bloomfield Road, they demanded, eagerly. Could they have details, please, of his coaching contribution to Watford’s play-off success in 2006? Why had Forest Green seen fit to part company with a legend such as Hockaday – and would he, could he now be tempted to take over at Elland Road?

The previously undiscovered Amazonian village was all abuzz with these burning questions, even as they scratched their heads and wondered aloud who this Beckham geezer was. Such total and uncritical worship of a man quite literally unknown everywhere else is a phenomenon just as striking, in quite the opposite fashion, as their total lack of any idea of Beckham’s own place in the Beautiful Game.

Meanwhile, in LS11 – a society just as insular as any to be found in a South American jungle – it remains unclear as to who exactly will be granted the dubious honour of succeeding previous incumbent Brian McDermott as Leeds United coach/manager/whatever. Whether it turns out to be Hockaday himself, Uncle Festa, or any other of the rumoured ten candidates to be interviewed by il Duce Massimo Cellino, the Leeds United fans are likely to be the last people whose preference will be taken into account. That’s the way the wind is blowing and the cookie crumbling around LS11 these days.

If it is Hockaday – then perhaps we can look forward to the formation of the Amazonian Jungle Branch of the Leeds United Supporters Club. Any suggestions of Beckham for Hon. President, though, are likely to be rejected. They’d be looking for someone with Elland Road connections and – ideally – a bloke they’ve actually heard of.

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Simeone’s Tantrum Must Have Been Real-ly Sweet for Beckham – by Rob Atkinson

Mr. Angry "Cholo" Simeone

Mr. Angry “Cholo” Simeone

Atlético Madrid 1, Real Madrid 4 (aet) – Champions League Final 2014

David Beckham must have permitted himself the slightest of malicious smiles in the wake of his former club Real Madrid’s Champions League triumph over city rivals Atlético, who were coached by Beckham’s World Cup ’98 nemesis Diego Simeone. Those of a certain age will readily remember how the wily Argentinian fouled Beckham, who petulantly kicked out at his antagonist instead of getting up and getting on with it.

Beckham was foolish, but Simeone had exploited the situation to his best advantage, admitting later that he feigned injury from the kick in order to get the England player sent off.  That’s exactly what happened, and the gallant ten men of England ended up going out on penalties in a familiar hard luck story. The unfortunate if misguided Beckham was vilified at home for his immature reaction to Simeone’s deliberate provocation, something he took years to live down.  Surely he must have harboured some resentment ever since?

If he has, then that resentment might just have had the edge taken off it at the end of the Champions League Final in Lisbon at the weekend.  Leading 1-0 deep into stoppage time, Simeone’s Atlético team were cruelly pegged back by an equaliser in the 93rd minute.  In extra time, Real’s class told as they ran out 4-1 winners – all of which proved a touch too much for the temperamental Simeone, who completely lost it on the touchline and appeared to be trying to get at the referee or others on the pitch who had offended his sensibilities.

For Beckham, it must have felt like the ultimate pay-off.  He’d had quite a bit of his own back for the disaster of ’98 by scoring a penalty against Argentina to defeat them 1-0 in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup, which would prove to be Simeone’s last appearance on that exalted stage. But to see one of his former clubs in Real inflict such a hammer-blow on his old enemy must have been a moment of great satisfaction – human nature being what it is.

Simeone, who has had great success this season as his team won la Liga, consigning Real to the ignominy of third spot, felt this reverse as a bitter blow to which he clearly reacted bitterly.  It’s almost certain that he will face UEFA sanctions for his unseemly display as Atlético’s defeat was confirmed – and the way in which the baser end of his nature was revealed will long be remembered by those who were queuing up to praise him in advance of the Lisbon final.

It had even been suggested in that run-up to the game that a film should be made of the rise of the Madrid underdogs, with Burt Lancaster playing the part of coach “Cholo” Simeone.  Quite apart from the fact that Lancaster would find this a difficult role to play, on account of having been dead these past 20 years, it may now be felt that he wasn’t in any case an appropriate actor to portray Cholo’s complex mixture of passion, slyness and thuggery.

Vinnie & Eric

United old boys Vinnie & Eric

As to who possibly could play this demanding role – a cross between former Leeds United stars turned film actors Vinnie Jones and Eric Cantona might just be ideal, if impossible to find outside of this blog’s imagination.  It’s just a thought, after all – but apart from the errant Argie portraying himself, I just can’t think of a better candidate.

Beckham To Retire At Last

Beckham: Hanging Up Boots

Beckham: Hanging Up Boots

So, the day has arrived at last.  An icon is to depart the game.  England’s “Goldenballs”, the man with the most famous metatarsal the world has ever seen, he of the sculpted facial furniture with chiseled jaw and cheekbones to die for, David Robert Joseph Beckham OBE is finally to quit the game he has – more or less – adorned since 1995.  Everybody is sitting up and taking notice at what is the end of an era.  Leyton Orient have felt it necessary to remind the world in a timely tweet that the Coiffed One is to make his last appearance against French side Lorient – NOT the English League One denizens L.Orient.  Thanks for clearing that up, lads.

 My first memory of David Beckham is necessarily hazy – I was quite intoxicated, and stood high up in the away end at The Theatre of Hollow Myths as Leeds United’s all-conquering youth side trampled the budding superstars of Man U into the turf on their way to an eventual 4-1 aggregate FA Youth Cup win.  That was in 1993, and it was some small measure of compensation for the transition from our status of Last Real Champions to that of Man U as first holders of the Premier League Plastic Trophy.  As the new era dawned, an epic career was off to an inglorious start, but it was destined to contrast starkly with the doomed efforts of that night’s winners.

Since then, even so jaundiced an observer as I must admit that Beckham has scaled Olympian Heights, and on one foot, too.  No less a footballing authority than the late, grating George Best described him in less than glowing terms: “He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn’t score many goals. Apart from that he’s all right.”  Not that he was bitter or anything – but maybe the fact that Beckham’s earnings in any given calendar month eclipsed the entire career earnings of the self-styled “Greatest Ever” had touched a raw nerve or two.  Whatever Bestie might have thought of the shortcomings of Becks talent-wise, the London boy could surely have taught him a thing or two about application, dedication and – crucially – not being caught with his pants down before important semi-final matches.

That ability to dedicate himself and make it big, on the back of a less-than-completely full box of tricks, certainly redounds to Beckham’s credit.  His habit of creating the most spectacular results with one swing of that cultured right foot did him no harm either.  On loan at Preston as a youngster, he created a stir by scoring direct from a corner, and not too long afterwards, establishing himself in the Man U first team, he looked up from just inside his own half at Selhurst Park, and lobbed the ball mightily over the back-pedaling ‘keeper Neil Sullivan to score an outrageously long-range goal against long-ball merchants Wimbledon.  The most famous exponent of this type of effort up to that time had been a chap called Pele, who tried it in the World Cup; but Pele had missed.

The path to World Superstardom was not, however, always strewn with rose petals.  Attitude problems surfaced, petulance would be a problem throughout most of his career (not an uncommon problem among graduates of the Man U finishing school), there were run-ins with his irascible mentor Ferguson, and he could be impulsive too.  He saw a young lass on a pop video, and he decided on the spot to marry her.  His judgement on that occasion at least was reasonably sound, or so it seems; the marriage is still going strong and from tacky beginnings with a wedding that would have figured large in any style guru’s nightmares, the couple have built a family with their weirdly-named brood and two large fortunes securing a stable future for all concerned.

So how will Beckham best be remembered?  Some will say as the archetypal Man U fan – he was born and raised in London after all, which is a headline qualification for that status.  Others will remember his flirtation with the extreme edges of fashion – his famous experiment with girly clothing as he sported a sarong, for instance.  But whatever he did, whatever style he either aped or created, there were millions queuing up to follow his every footstep.  He had the knack of capturing the hearts of a whole generation with the totality of the Beckham package – the talent, the looks, the style, the pop-star wife.  Some of it was grossly kitsch, Beckingham Palace was the venue for many sins against the Manual of Good Taste.  Some of it took your breath away with the sheer, daring nerve of it – the revelation that his son Brooklyn was named after the site of his conception had people offering up prayers of thanks that the tender moment hadn’t taken place in Peckham.  Subsequent male children were named Romeo and Cruz and then a girl arrived to be lumbered with the curiously android-like Harper Seven.  There is, after all, no accounting for taste.

Some will remember the iconic free-kicks for England, the most famous of which secured his country’s automatic World Cup 2002 qualification.  What people forget is that, had we been doomed to the play-offs, we might have taken Germany’s easier route to the Final – but who ever knows what fate might hold?  In the end, England and Beckham, together with his famously bust metatarsal, appeared in the global tournament, but for once Beckham wasn’t really up to it, and it was his half-hearted, half-baked, half-fit attempt at a tackle which let Brazil in for the equaliser at the quarter-final stage, the Samba Stars going on to eliminate England 2-1.

But whatever you might think of Beckham, my fondest memories of him will be in that England shirt – not for his flashes of temper, leading to notorious dismissals, but for the massively evident pride with which he wore the Three Lions over his heart, the utter commitment and dedication with which he put himself about the pitch in the England cause, be it merely as a star player, or eventually as captain of his country.  Nobody set a better example of leadership than David Beckham when he had that international shirt on, and nobody could ever doubt on those occasions that everything else – the endorsements, the mansions, the publicity stunts, the lurid tales of his off-field life – all of that was secondary to his intense, burning patriotism.  If that alone had been enough, England may well have had three winners’ stars to embroider above the Three Lions on the Shirt, instead of that solitary one.

So it’s farewell, Goldenballs.  He was a player of his times, a man who would be a superstar  among superstars, someone who would attract fan fervour and inspire adulation and hero-worship out of all proportion to his essentially modest character – and some would say disproportionately to his talent too.  Be that as it may, it’s unlikely we will see such a phenomenon again, unless the ingredients are coming together even as we speak, and yet another cockney Man U fan is bubbling under up Salford way.  You just never know.