McClaren watches as Beckham makes debut
Steve McClaren got what he came for on Thursday night as he witnessed David Beckham's long-awaited Major League Soccer debut for the Los Angeles Galaxy in Washington.
The England manager looked on from a luxury suite at a sold out RFK Stadium as Beckham made his entrance as a 72nd minute substitute.
McClaren had travelled to the United States not only to watch Beckham but also to meet his new coach Frank Yallop and general manager Alexi Lalas, who said McClaren is keen to build a solid working relationship with the club to monitor Beckham's progress.
'That's a discussion that we've had and will continue to keep him abreast of the situation here,' Lalas said. '(Beckham) wants to continue to play for England and I'm sure Steve wants to have him part of that but he needs to have him fully fit, so we'll see how this next week goes, how quickly he progresses and then make a decision in cooperation.
'That was a huge reason for him to be out here, to get to know the new club, the new personnel, so we had a very nice chat about everything.'
Although he was unable to prevent a 1-0 Galaxy loss to DC United, Beckham made a couple of fine passes to create opportunities for his team, and showed no ill effects from the ankle injury that has delayed this day for so long.
Having been listed as 'questionable' for the game prior to kick off, Beckham looked determined to get into the action as he began warming up 10 minutes before half-time.
Perhaps the presence of McClaren, who had been shown on the big screen at the stadium, helped to spur him on.
McClaren did not stop to talk to reporters after the game, but could be seen sharing a joke with Beckham in the locker rooms before heading off for a conversation with Galaxy coach Frank Yallop.
The possibility of Beckham playing in England's next game, the friendly against Germany on August 22 is sure to have come up, but Beckham himself said it was too soon for McClaren to make a call.
'He can only judge that when I've spent a few more minutes on the pitch,' Beckham said. 'That's the only way I can be confident.'
While the Galaxy are keen to nurse Beckham back to full health with a cautious approach, Lalas recognises the allure of international football for Beckham.
'It's a friendly game, but any time a player is asked to play for his country there's an incredible amount of pride and honour,' said the former USA international.
'Any time you talk to David you very quickly learn that he loves to play for England whether its a friendly or a qualifying match. We want to do what's best for our team and what's best for our player and do it in a partnership with Steve McClaren.'
David Beckham admitted he was delighted to finally get onto the pitch after making his long-awaited MLS debut for Los Angeles Galaxy on Thursday night.
The England midfielder made his first appearance in a competitive game as he came on as a 72nd-minute substitute in the 1-0 loss to DC United.
Although naturally pleased to finally get on the field and to help make the game a sell-out Beckham had to suffer the frustration of defeat.
'It was a good night, but it was also a bad night,' Beckham said. 'Obviously, there's been a certain amount of pressure because everyone is talking about how I've come to MLS and not played yet. But I don't feel pressure in that sense. I feel pressure in myself to get fit and to get back playing again.
'It's not nice to disappoint people who have paid a lot of money to come and see you, so it was good to get on the pitch tonight.'
Although clearly a little ring-rusty, Beckham showed few ill effects of the ankle injury which has delayed this day for so long, and he went crunching into two tackles almost as soon as he came onto the field.
The injury has not gone away, however.
'It was tender,' he said of the ankle. 'I haven't played on it for eight weeks, I haven't trained on it for eight weeks and it was going to be tender because it was the first time I really got into anything competitive.
'But I was happy to be out there. I'm sure there will be (tenderness) for a while because it's not an injury that just heals up and is perfect right away. There will be some reaction tomorrow, but this was a big, important step for me.'
Beckham had hinted on Wednesday that he might be ready to play, but said the final decision only came Thursday.
'The manager made that decision,' he said. 'I told him how I felt. He said, 'If you are confident that you can get through the game without making it any worse, then go and do it,' and that was decided.'
The decision was made easier when a large storm hit Washington early in the second half, softening up the turf.
'Those were the biggest raindrops I've ever seen,' Beckham said with a laugh. 'We don't get them like that back home. That was more surprising than anything.
'But I think it made it more fun. I'm used to that sort of weather, being from England. I like it when the ground is wet.'
The sell-out crowd of 46,686 was on hand at RFK Stadium, and they gave Beckham a deafening welcome when he stepped to the touchline.
'That cuts out all the frustration that I've had for the last few weeks, ever since I joined the Galaxy and haven't been able to play,' Beckham said of the reaction. 'Stepping out there and seeing the reaction, it was great. I feel very honoured. It was great for me to be on the pitch and to kick a soccer ball around.'
With one eye on the business side of things, Beckham was happy to call the night a success in that regard.
'We had 40,000-odd fans, so you know it's been a successful night. A full stadium, that's what the sport needs,' he added.