THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Thursday 20 March ~

Church bells are pealing, bunting is being strung from lampposts and the WSC staff are set to join the mile-long conga that's weaving its way towards our office. It's been confirmed that David Beckham is in Fabio Capello's England squad for the friendly with France. Which can only mean one thing. He's going to get his 100th cap. If there's any space left on his torso, he might get another of those excellent tattoos done to celebrate the occasion. After which he might decide to focus on a film career, a pop career, charity work or his golf swing. He might even get another cap. But we will at least be spared any more speculation about whether he will ever make it to three figures. The most tedious saga of recent times has been put to rest. Or has it?

At first glance, it might seem that Fabio has decided, not unreasonably, that there is no point in submitting himself to a further barrage of questions about Beckham and his England future. So Beckham will start against France, then be taken off in the second half to thunderous applause from the travelling fans while Victoria waves regally from the stands and that will be it. Fabio sent his assistant Franco Baldini to watch him play for the LA Galaxy in a charity match at Pizza Hut Park, Dallas last Sunday. Given that it was a 10,000-mile round trip, we can assume that he was despatched to establish whether Beckham looked fit enough to be a plausible selection for Paris next week.

Hold on, though. This is only a preliminary squad of 30. Perhaps David will only make the final squad of 23 if there are withdrawals and injuries. In which case we're going to endure another surge of Beckhamania for another two months until England's next match, against the US in May. The conga line has come to a halt directly outside the WSC office. There are mutterings, some seem ready to panic.

But no, wait. We'd forgotten about a miraculous event in three days' time. Super Easter Sunday, the second happy coincidence in this season's fixture list, with the big four paired off against each other again. Those players all hate each other – there are bound to be raised studs and flying elbows. A few injuries there, coupled with withdrawals prompted by managers' concerns about important fixtures coming up, and the squad is sure to be whittled down. And it's not as it there are any other international-class English players who could be called up to fill the gaps. Dave's in. He just has to get on a plane, arrive safely, get changed, warm up. What can go wrong?

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