London: Ace midfielder David Beckham will jet across the Atlantic this week on a mission to eclipse the haunting memory of one of his darkest days in an England shirt.
Fabio Capello’s squad is gathering ahead of next Saturday’s friendly against Slovenia at Wembley. But the real business takes place four days later when England face Croatia in a World Cup qualifier that could rubber-stamp their passage to South Africa.
The clash will be a stark reminder of the ill fated night in November of 2007 when Steve McClaren’s England hopes of appearing at Euro 2008 were washed away 3-2.
For Beckham, it was especially painful. He had appeared as a second-half substitute and was instrumental in England’s fightback before Mladen Petric left the country on its knees - and McClaren out of a job, a British newspaper reported.
“It was one of my worst nights in an England shirt because of not qualifying. It was a bad end to that campaign. We definitely don’t want to go through something like that again. For the country not to qualify for the European Championships was devastating,” Beckham said.
A repeat of that evening would, however, not be a mortal blow to England’s qualification prospects.
“When you qualify for a World Cup you always want to be optimistic, you always want to believe you can win. So I’m the same now. If you qualify, you have to believe that you are going to win,” Beckham said.
“But you get a good feeling about this team because of the character we have, that when we do go behind we are able to come back. Also, I’ve always said we’ve had a good atmosphere in the dressing room but it has never been as good as this one.”
Beckham’s chances of featuring next summer hinge, of course, not only on his performances with England but also on his place of employment at the start of next year.
He confirmed: “People are always asking where I’m going next but I need to finish the season with LA Galaxy first. And then we’ll see what happens. Everyone’s aware that I need to be back at a European team leading up to the World Cup.”
First Published: Sunday, August 30, 2009, 17:58