x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Beckham can make an impact with Spurs

England veteran may become Redknapp's latest over-the-hill signing, and Richard Jolly speculates on the sort of role he could play.

At 35, David Beckham is still ambitious – and a spell at Tottenham could give him the opportunity to return to the Premier League stage.
At 35, David Beckham is still ambitious – and a spell at Tottenham could give him the opportunity to return to the Premier League stage.

For all his renowned skill with a free kick, one of David Beckham's most obvious attributes is his ability to capture the imagination.

Perhaps it is because of the blurring of celebrity and sport that he has a wider appeal, perhaps the product of the iconic images of a remarkable career that Tottenham Hotspur's move for the former England captain generates such speculation.

Could it happen? Should it? Will it? The prosaic answer is that it depends upon Los Angeles Galaxy.

The last time they released the player, he ended up missing the majority of the Major League Soccer season with a ruptured Achilles.

The potential loan deal is partly the consequence of Beckham's endless quest to add to his 115 England caps, partly the result of an enduring desire to play that should soften even his most persistent critics' vitriol.

The fame still comes second to the football.

His motivations are clear. Tottenham's are more intriguing, but commercial factors should be ruled out.

A two-month deal is too short to really capitalise on Beckham's global appeal. More pertinently, Harry Redknapp shares Beckham's sense of showmanship, but also his devotion to the game.

The serial signer of players seems to have a mental list of footballers he wishes he had recruited at their peak.

It helps explain the distinguished group he eventually managed in the autumn of their careers; Stuart Pearce, Paul Merson, Teddy Sheringham, Kanu and David James, to name but a few.

Redknapp has likened Beckham to Sheringham, believing his professionalism and footballing brain would render him an asset.

Having turned the phrase "down to the bare bones" into a footballing cliche in his time at Portsmouth, Redknapp retains his ability to persuade everyone, himself included, that he needs even more players.

In this instance, his rationale includes the lack of alternatives to Aaron Lennon on the right flank should David Bentley leave on loan.

As Bentley has figured in just three of Tottenham's 29 fixtures this season, it is logical to wonder if a replacement is really needed.

Moreover, Rafael van der Vaart spent his first few weeks at White Hart Lane excelling as a nominal right winger. In addition, as Niko Kranjcar, though he dislikes it, can perform a similar role, as Jermaine Jenas was often deployed on the right flank in his time at Newcastle and as Giovani dos Santos lined up there for Mexico in the World Cup, there is no pressing need for Beckham.

Indeed, he would slow Spurs down. Redknapp is profiting from possessing similarly speedy threats on either flank in Lennon and Gareth Bale.

Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko may appreciate the pinpoint delivery the veteran would offer, but many a left-back may prefer to encounter Beckham than Lennon. It is easier on the legs.

But what Beckham's arrival would do is to place Redknapp in a similar position to Fabio Capello.

The England manager opted for a reversal of orthodox footballing theory by deciding that the slower, older man made for the ideal impact substitute.

During the World Cup qualifying campaign, a flyer, whether Lennon or Theo Walcott, tended to start, with Beckham introduced when they had exhausted left-backs and opened up space.

And, in the context of both the team and the season, that may be Beckham's role: impact substitute.

Tottenham may not have been genuine title contenders when Redknapp first proclaimed they were, but they are now.

In a division where margins are so narrow, the addition of a squad player with pedigree could be sufficient to make a difference.

With Manchester United due at White Hart Lane later this month and Arsenal next, two season-defining games coincide with Beckham's possible arrival. They could be won from the bench. It is a tantalising prospect, for Spurs and the 35-year-old alike.

And a return to the Premier League could grant a man who loves the limelight but was denied a fourth World Cup by injury a valedictory appearance on the big stage.

***

Manchester United's two away wins this season have had strange similarities.

Both at Stoke City and, on Saturday, at West Bromwich Albion, Gary Neville was fortunate not to be sent off, United lost a lead and Javier Hernandez headed a winner.

It is a strange recipe for success and probably not one worth trying to repeat.

***

Chelsea's 3-3 draw with Aston Villa was the most dramatic game of the weekend but, memorable as the conclusion was on the pitch, events in the stands were as eye-catching. After Ciaran Clark's injury-time equaliser, Randy Lerner, the Villa owner, hurtled down a flight of stairs to hug Paul Faulkner, his chief executive.

It certainly wasn't the reaction of a man who views his stake in the club as just a financial investment.

***

The crowded fixture list at this time of year forces managers to make decisions.

Two who emerged in credit on Wednesday were Wolverhampton Wanderers' Mick McCarthy, a winner at Liverpool, and Wigan athletic's Roberto Martinez, whose side held Arsenal.

Yet their weekend setbacks against potential relegation rivals, Wolves losing at West Ham United and Wigan going down at home to Newcastle United, suggested they would have been prioritising the true six-pointers. Instead, weary teams contrived to give their rivals a boost with below-par performances.

 

sports@thenational.ae