End of the era of my heroes – David Beckham

Guest post by @afansopinion: a 25yr old Dad of 2 boys. Enjoy writing about various football topics when I have some free time. Non biased Villa fan. In love with Andi Weimann. I’m no expert, these are just my thoughts, just a fans opinion, on the latest goings on, in the sometimes, not so beautiful game. Visit his website.

End of the era of my heroes

(Getty)

(Getty)

It’s slowly coming to an end. The generation that gave me football, the era that I will remember as the best and the players who gave me my favourite memories. Beckham and Owen will this season call it a day, play their last games and leave the pitch for one last time. We all knew about Owen, he’d announced his retirement long ago, (some might argue he’d effectively been retired all season!) and I’ve said before how sad it is to see him almost forgotten about. One of England’s greatest, left on a bench for what seems like forever, not the best ending and one that has somewhat been overshadowed by a few others deciding that their time is up. Sir Alex Ferguson, Paul Scholes (again!) Michael Owen and today, almost out of nowhere, David Beckham. An era really is coming to an end.

(Getty)

(Getty)

Beckham came as a shock. I am genuinely gutted. He represents the generation that I grew up watching. He is the ultimate icon of sport, the most famous footballer on the planet. His off field success has arguably been more prolific than what he has done on the pitch. The husband of a spice girl, golden balls, brand Beckham, Posh n Becks etc. There’s plenty who will say he’s just a fame hungry, talentless, wannbe model. Well, he’s famous no question but he came runner up twice in the World player of the year awards and to be honest, he’s a good looking chap. One who’s hairstyles will have been copied by the same blokes slagging him off for appearing in a fashion advert. He’s the most iconic player since George Best, I’d argue he’s probably the most influential of all time. If Best was football’s John Lennon then Beckham is its McCartney. His club career is littered with league titles and winners medals. Quite why he went to the MLS so soon I’m not sure. Money? Perhaps. Although I think he really believed he could change the game over there. How much of an impact he had can be argued, I don’t quite think he was the success he should have been and I really do wish he’d stayed in Europe longer. He could have walked into any team post Real Madrid. The two loan spells at A.C Milan showed us he was still as good as anyone in his position. How disappointed I was when he missed that 2010 World Cup though injury. Not that I think England would have gotten much further, if he had played, but my memories of him are always in an England shirt. The most passionate player I have ever seen play for England. For me, he’s the last England player who really wanted to and cared about playing for England. My memories of the 1998, 2002 & 2006 World Cups and the Euro’s in between are all filled with Beckham and to a degree, Michael Owen too. I don’t think I have enjoyed watching England in tournaments or qualifies, since they were in the side.

(Getty)

(Getty)

Fame is part of football now. People who get angry with how much of a media figure Beckham became tend to ignore the fact that every footballer now is a celebrity. Rooney, Ronaldo, Messi are all accessories. They advertise, they endorse and they are all over the place. Beckham was just the first one to it all. The same papers and magazines who would wrote about how bad his celebrity status was for the game are the same ones who would report his every move. Media hypocrisy is rife in England. The ‘build you up to knock you down’ culture chose Beckham as it’s most prized asset. The aftermath of the 98 World Cup was the making of the man the media would later go on to name Golden Balls. They could never decide if they loved him, or loathed him. Then suddenly, he just became a national icon. Almost overnight. He still endorsed every product under the sun, appeared in supermarket adverts and ran around in his boxers but the press changed their attitude. Maybe they grew to respect him, or perhaps they just got bored. He’s the most famous footballer ever, I doubt we will see anyone reach the same hype. As much as I hate the way the modern game centres around players celebrity status and off field activity’s, I had to today realise that much of that is because of Beckham. Brand Beckham changed everything. In many ways, he IS modern football. The hair, the clothes, the money, the fame, the WAG, the rockstar appeal. I hate modern football. Do I blame Beckham for that? No, of course not! Maybe that makes me a hypocrite. Ah well.

(Getty)

(Getty)

When Twitter broke the news to me, I was gutted. The reason I’m so disappointed however, isn’t because I think he still has loads to offer or that I’ve followed his 9 game span at PSG with interest because, I haven’t. I’m sad because I have to now realise the era I loved most, is coming to an end. The players I pretended to be, the players who I copied and admired the most, won’t be playing much longer. I had to say a ridiculously premature goodbye to Cantona. Bergkamp followed and then Zidane but the England players of the late 90’s early 00’s are who I idolised the most. They are the ones who all seem to be retiring. That’s a weird feeling for me. It’s the first time in my life that so many players from one generation have left the game. I can only liken it to a parent, seeing their kids leave home, knowing you’ll miss them, and wishing they were still around but really, in your head knowing it’s for the best. I don’t want these players to leave, I don’t want to stop seeing them but… it’s time.

Beckham isn’t the best player I’ve ever seen, he’s not the most talented all round player no. But have you ever seen anyone cross a ball like him? Pick out a pass from that far out with such ease, get excited everytime England got a free kick? I miss that excitement. I admired his dedication and commitment more than anything. I remember watching him at United and he always seemed angry when playing, he wasn’t he was just full of adrenaline and passion. You don’t get that so much now. His goal celebrations were genuine, I remember the tears he had in his eyes after that goal Vs Argentina. He loved playing for England. We’ve missed that. Someone who loves playing for England.

(Getty)

(Getty)

When I played with my mates over the park or just a kick about at school, everyone took corners like Beckham, crossed with that huge swing of the arm and curling of the foot. Everyone took free kicks like him, all flying high and wide, none of them worth remembering but we still thought we looked great, we looked like Becks. At least in our heads we did. He’s as much of an icon as anyone in football history, like it not. He used to sound like a child when he spoke, a nervous school boy. Now he’s confident and speak a great deal of sense, he’s worth listening to. That’s something I’ve been glad to see. For all his fame off the pitch, he was always so jittery and scared when talking to the camera. He’s grown up now, I like listening to what he has to say, I want him to say more. The complete opposite to how I used to think!

He’s finished at PSG. Winning another league title. I always wanted him to return to Old Trafford, for Manchester United, just for one season. I’m not a United fan, but the football fan inside me has always been desperate to see that happen. One of my favourite memories of Beckham was when he did return to United but against them, on loan at AC Milan. He hit a volley from 30 yards that almost, almost went in. What a moment that might’ve been!

For me, he represents the last of a remaining few that were my generation of football heroes. Sure, everyone will get to the stage of saying “it’s not what it used to be”. My Dad said that to me in the mid 90’s, his generation of heroes had long left the field of play. Now mine are slowing hanging up their boots. Giggs, perhaps the last remaining soldier.

I watch back Youtube videos of Beckham & Owen from the days where England fans still believed. When we thought football might still come home and that the ‘golden generation’ might just live up to that ridiculous nametag and I just smile. I love watching them back. The Greece free kick, the 5-1 Vs Germany, the defeats to Portugal in those great ¼ final games. There was no success, no trophy, no tournament win, nothing.

Nothing but the memory of when you loved it the most.

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