Beckham content with squad role - McClaren
Steve McClaren insists former captain David Beckham would be happy with a role as an England squad man.
After handing Beckham his 98th cap with a 60-minute appearance during Friday's friendly win over Austria in Vienna, McClaren must decide whether to stick with the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star for Wednesday's make-or-break showdown with Croatia.
Although Beckham was the man who delivered on the last occasion England found themselves needing a home draw in their final game to qualify for a major tournament - memorably curling home the last-gasp free-kick which brought England back on level terms against Greece - six long years have elapsed since then.
And considering prior to the Austria game the 32-year-old had got through nothing more arduous than a succession of exhibition matches for LA Galaxy, it is little wonder McClaren is giving serious consideration to leaving Beckham on the bench on Wednesday.
It is not a position Beckham is used to. But he has assured McClaren he is happy to be involved in any way the coach sees fit.
'We have picked players, David included, to be part of a squad,' said McClaren.
'Once they are part of the squad, it's up to performances whether they play or not.
'David needed a run out on Friday and it was good to have a look at him.
'What we've got to do now is look through that game again, especially the first half and assess the performance of the team.
'The key thing over the last three or four months is that because we have had so many injuries, the likes of Gareth Barry and Shaun Wright-Phillips have created competition for places.'
Aside from the Beckham issue, McClaren must also decide whether to keep faith with error-prone keeper Paul Robinson.
It was Robinson who was at fault for Croatia's crucial opener in Zagreb 13 months ago and McClaren pointedly refused to back his man, as he has done so often in the past, yesterday raising the possibility of a recall for David James or shoving Scott Carson into the biggest match of his life following a steady senior debut in Austria.
'That's not an issue for today,' said McClaren in response to questions over Robinson's position.
Darren Bent's call-up in place of injured front-man Michael Owen seems designed to bolster McClaren's bench options but Owen Hargreaves' return from treatment on his long-standing knee injury could be more significant as England look for the clean sheet that will guarantee qualification.
'It's a boost that we've got Owen to come back in,' said McClaren.
'Manchester United did not think he was fit enough to play two games in four or five days but we have got him for the one that matters.'
'I more or less know my team, it is the approach to the game that is going to be important.
'We have to be positive and try to win but we must get the balance right to ensure we keep that clean sheet.'