Time to cap distractions

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 7:10 AM ET

If this is the way it's going to be whenever England coach Fabio Capello names a squad, he would be better off giving David Beckham his 100th cap and be done with it.

Capello named his provisional roster of 30 players for England's friendly against France in Paris on Wednesday.

Like the first roster Capello named, the news was all about Beckham. In that case, it was about Beckham being left out. This time, it was about Capello's naming of Beckham to the provisional roster.

From now until he names his roster today, the discussion will be all about whether Beckham should be included. Capello must rebuild the England side for future internationals, particularly for 2010 World Cup qualifying, which begins in August.

How naming Beckham -- a 32-year-old, often-injured, limited player who practises his trade in the United States -- is going to help England in the future is a bit of a head-scratcher.

But this 100th cap situation has become an irritation with everyone weighing in, including many of England's former managers, about the merits of naming Beckham.

Capello normally wouldn't allow any of this to bother him. He simply would name whomever he wants to name and suffer the irritation of the media, fans and England's former managers who are calling for Beckham to earn his 100th cap, even though none of them were particularly successful when Beckham actually had more to offer.

But Capello is a smart guy. While he isn't bothered by all this, he recognizes that it's becoming a distraction for his team.

With a couple of friendlies on the horizon, Capello is leaning toward giving Beckham his 100th cap in a game that has little significance except for purposes of preparation and selection for future squads. That would stop the constant debate and if Beckham is given substantial playing time, it would give Capello, and everyone else who watches, an idea of whether Beckham has anything left.

Imagine the distraction this would cause if England had qualified for Euro '08. But then it wouldn't have been Capello's problem because Steve McClaren still would have the job as England's skipper and without question, if Beckham wasn't injured, he have a place in the Euro lineup, regardless of form.

England has not won a major international nation's competition since the World Cup in 1966. The time has come for a housecleaning of old ideas, methods and the atmosphere surrounding England. The Football Association has made a start at it by naming an Italian as the top man, something which would have been unthinkable years ago.

He needs to be allowed to get on with it and the media, fans and players need to forgo the mindset that has caused the national team to take three steps backward for every step forward it takes.

It all will be over soon. In the demands put on today's soccer player, a player who begins to break down no longer can compete at the international level or top club level.

LOTS OF MILEAGE

That's especially true of players who not only have responsibilities on the pitch but who allow off-the-field activities to cut into their training routine. There is no need to look further than Ronaldo or Adriano, who allowed training to slip, were injured and never could regain their form.

Beckham always was far more serious about training than Ronaldo, but there's little Beckham can do about the hundreds of games he has played and miles he has run.

A year from now, the discussion will be not whether Beckham will be called to play for England, but whether Beckham will be healthy enough to play at all.


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