The Reuters global sports blog
Who will rise to the occasion and become a worthy replacement for Beckham?
Fabio Capello has plenty of options for the right midfield slot, even if David Beckham’s snapped Achilles rules him out of the World Cup.
Between Shaun Wright-Phillips, Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon (if fit) and James Milner there is a wealth of talent at the Italian’s disposal.
The nagging worry for Capello may be the question of why one of those younger players has not made the position his own already.
There have been plenty of opportunities after all. It’s four years since Beckham resigned as captain after the World Cup in Germany. It might have been the end of his international career but Steve McClaren eventually recalled him and Capello has made him a regular in the squad, if not the starting line-up.
Now the prospect of Beckham coming off the bench and to the rescue has gone, it should be a signal for Wright-Phillips and co that someone needs to take responsibility in that area and give Capello one less thing to worry about, as the gruelling and relentless English season lurches into its eighth month.
Wes Brown has fallen prey to the curse of the metatarsal — a broken toe that in the past has previously cut down Beckham, Gary Neville, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney twice — and is fighting to make the World Cup.
Capello’s other main right back Glen Johnson is only just tentatively returning to action after ankle ligament damage that kept him out for more than two months. Left back Ashley Cole has a broken ankle that will at best leave him desperately rusty and at worse rule him out of the tournament altogether, while his obvious replacement, Wayne Bridge, has retired from the international game after his personal problems with centre-back and former captain John Terry.
The new captain, Rio Ferdinand, has struggled all season with a back injury while Lennon is trying to get over a troublesome groin injury that has kept him out since December.
Right midfield should really be the least of Capello’s worries.
Lennon, Walcott and Wright-Phillips all bring a measure of pace and direct running that Beckham could not match even in his prime.
This is an opportunity for one of them to step up and put a real stamp on this England team. Who will rise to the occasion?