Sorry Beckham, Capello was right

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

England coach Fabio Capello sent out what should be a wonderfully happy message to English soccer fans.

Sentimentality will not stand in the way of winning, no matter how seemingly insignificant the football match.

Capello named his first lineup for England for next week's friendly at Switzerland and David Beckham was not in the lineup.

The focal point of discussion over the past few weeks surrounding the national team had been Beckham. Would Beckham be named so that he could earn his 100th cap? Debate had been raging.

As Capello is wont to do, he merely tuned it out and picked a team with several new faces.

Beckham was not one of the old guard selected.

Good for the Italian. Beckham hasn't played much in the past year. When injuries and his busy off-field schedule have allowed him to play, he certainly hasn't shown the form that warrants inclusion in a national side.

Capello isn't one for token gestures and naming Beckham to this team would have been just that.

Beckham said he is fit and ready to play. He is desperate to earn that 100th cap, knowing that he may be one good knock away on his ankle from ending his career.

Capello always has been about a player proving he was fit. As such, it won't be until Major League Soccer begins again that Beckham might earn that 100th cap.

Capello was succinct in his explanation. Beckham hasn't played very much since last year. There is only one measuring stick with Capello and sentimentality appears nowhere on it. Neither do popularity or personal milestones. The granite-faced manager told Beckham what the measuring stick was going to be.

"I advised him that he is still part of my plans and once he is playing regularly in America we will look closely at him again," Capello said.

Unspoken but understood was codicil that Beckham also had to be playing well, not just putting on a shirt.

Former England manager Sven-Goran Ericksson paid for his loyalty in the World Cup in 2002 when he played an out-of-shape Beckham.

Capello will remake the England side.

He selected 30 players, the final 23 of whom will be named today. The group includes nine players with fewer than 10 appearances. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Curtis Davies were named for the first time.

With England out of Euro '08, Capello is auditioning players for World Cup qualifying and the 2010 World Cup.

This week's friendlies will be the start of the trial period for many nations. You'll see many established players left out as national team coaches give younger players an opportunity to earn their international stripes.

Unlike club managers who are seeking immediate success, a manager of a national side has to carefully balance immediate success with whom he believes will still be part of the national team picture in two-year increments, when major competitions such as the European Championships and World Cup take place.

A player who may be fit today, may be too old or worn out to play two years from now. A player who is worn out and injury-prone today, will offer little to a national team two years from now.

Capello could have won popularity points for picking Beckham. But popularity contests don't win the kind of points you need to go where the English are hoping Capello takes them.


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