Famous both on and off the pitch, David Beckham has reached iconic status druing a career spanning 16 years and taking in four of the world's biggest clubs. This in-depth biography traces the incredible accomplishments of the kind-hearted and talented star who has taken the world by storm. Born in east London, Beckham began his football career at Tottenham Hotspur but signed schoolboy forms for Manchester United on his 14th birthday. He was part of the team that won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 and, having made his senior debut in 1994, soon established himself as United's right-sided midfielder. Beckham was integral to the club's success during him time at Old Trafford, winning six Premier League medals, two FA Cups and being part of the legendary Treble-winning side of 1999. Beckham has also been a major player for England since making his international debut in 1996. His infamous sending-off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup looked set to ruin his England career but thanks to his impressive perfomances and his attitude on and off the pitch, he won supporters round and became England captain in 2000. Similarly, Manchester United supporters were rocked by Beckham's move to Real Madrid in 2003, but he is still held in high regard by the club and fans alike. Awarded the OBE in 2003, Beckham is now an iconic figure in English football and has been instrumental in England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Although injury sadly put paid to his dream of playing in the 2010 Finals, his status is such that he travelled with the England team to South Africa to act as a mentor. As much a brand as a fooballer, and with a celebrity lifestyle most can only dream of, David Beckham is much more than a footballing legend.
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About the Author
Gwen Russell is also the author of Arise Sir Tom Jones and Jeremy Clarkson.
Read an Excerpt
Arise Sir David Beckham
Footballer, Celebrity, Legend - the Biography of Britain's Best Loved Sporting Icon
By Gwen Russell
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2011 Gwen Russell
All rights reserved.
TO TED AND SANDRA: A SON
Ted and Sandra Beckham were ecstatic: they had just had their second child, a son. The year was 1975 and, in early May, Sandra entered Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, east London where, on the second day of that month, she gave birth to David Robert Joseph Beckham, who was to be the second of three children – Lynne, the oldest, was born a couple of years earlier and Joanna was yet to come along. And Ted, in particular, was delighted, for the arrival of a boy meant he had someone with whom to share his deepest and most abiding interest – football.
All his life, Ted had worshipped Manchester United, one of the most famous football clubs in the world, and from the start he was determined his newborn would share his passion. At first, of course, no one had any idea quite how much his son was to fulfil his dreams, for the Beckhams came from humble origins: Sandra was a hairdresser and Ted a kitchen fitter, with no idea that their son was one day going to become one of the most famous men in the world. But what they would soon know was that baby Becks would become just as fanatical about the sport as his father was.
From a very young age, David was taken by Ted to a nearby park for a kickabout and the boy soon became so keen on this new pastime that he would practise alone for hours and hours, perfecting the dead-ball kicks that are now world famous. As an adult, David once revealed that some people thought his famous free kicks were a matter of luck: they were not, he said. They were the result of unending practice stints that dated back to those very early days.
Shortly after David's birth, the family moved to Chingford, Essex, the home of his grandparents, where he was to spend the remainder of his childhood. Always an appealing little boy, David seemed to have only one drawback as far as football was concerned – his height. The young David was actually quite short – it was not until his late teens that he suddenly shot up to become the six-footer that he is now.
If David worried about his height, he didn't show it. Football became such a passion, so quickly, that it soon dominated his entire life. He would play wherever he could: not only in spaces just outside his family's houses, but also on the council pitches at Ainsley Wood School.
Away from the pitch, he was surprisingly shy. It's a quality he's retained to the present day: when he first met the then Victoria Adams, it was she who had to open the conversation.
David's first school was Chase Lane Primary School and fellow schoolmates remember his passion for his chosen sport even back then. 'We were all very quiet at school, David especially,' recalls Matthew Treglohan, who became one of David's closest friends. 'I used to sit next to him in geography and art classes. He was very good at art, but was only ever interested in football. He wasn't even that bothered about girls then. A few of the kids shone through in football, but David was certainly one of the best.'
But that is to understate the case. David was so good, so young, that his potential was spotted even before he was in his teens. It was while he was attending Chingford School that he took the first step towards what was to become his career. The local paper ran an ad reading: 'Wanted: Football stars of the future'. (Ironically, in one of the many parallels that run throughout their lives, Victoria also kicked off her career when she spotted an ad for singers and dancers in a paper, although in her case she was in her late teens.) David got in touch and soon began playing for the Ridgeway Rovers in the Enfield Sunday League. The team, David's local outfit, played in what is now called the Peter May Sports Ground in Wadham Road, Highams Park. It is fair to say he made his mark: in the course of three years, he scored over 100 goals, while also playing for another team, Chingford High, in the Waltham Forest District and Essex Under-15s.
A fellow school footballer, Nana Boachie, remembers it well. 'We were both 11 in our first proper football contest and David desperately wanted to start off with a goal,' Nana says. 'As goalie on the opposing side, I wanted to keep a clean sheet. He just said, "We'll see," in that quiet voice of his. Just before half-time, we gave away a free kick just outside the area. David curled the ball into the top corner. It was impossible to save. He still remembers it.'
So proficient did the young David show himself to be that top clubs began to notice him. He might have been only 11, but London clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal both began making enquiries about this extraordinarily talented young man. But, despite the fact that he lived just outside London, David wasn't interested. He knew who he wanted to play for and it wasn't a London club at all – it was Manchester United. Ted Beckham was a stalwart fan of United and now his son was, too. He got teased about it, as well.
'I used to take so much stick from my mates at school,' David confessed. 'I had a couple of mates who were West Ham fans and a couple who were Tottenham or Arsenal fans. But I remember when we beat Arsenal 6–2, Sharpey [Lee Sharpe] scored the hat-trick. I used to wear my United shirt over my school uniform on my way to school, so I got a lot of stick, but I used to give a lot back.'
It is noticeable, incidentally, that even then David was going to wear what he wanted, regardless of what anyone else thought. Indeed, David was to become interested in clothes very early on. But, to fund that habit and much else besides, he had to earn some money and so got a job as a potman at Walthamstow Dog Stadium, where he earned the princely sum of £10 a night. And it was at this young age that David got a taste of what was to come. In 1986, he took part in the TSB Bobby Charlton Soccer Skills final, which he won – the youngest competitor ever to have done so. And that final took place at Old Trafford, Manchester United's home ground, which meant that David first kicked a ball there when he was only 11. Funnily enough, the prize was also a little taste of what was to come: it was a two-week trip to Spain to train with Barcelona. Terry Venables was the manager and players included Mark Hughes, Steve Archibald and Gary Lineker.
Nor was that the only foretaste of what his later life was to be like. The competition at Old Trafford took place on the same day as a match with Tottenham Hotspur, and so there were plenty of Spurs fans present. Despite David's tender years, the fans were not shy about making clear what they thought of his choice of team. 'All the Spurs fans were there and, as I was doing the dribbling in and out of the cones, they noticed that this was David Beckham of Essex,' he said. 'The Spurs fans started singing and cheering, but then the announcer said I was a Man United fan. They booed me and I went in to a couple of cones.'
It was fortunate that David was showing such promise on the pitch, because he certainly wasn't shining at school. Blessed with only limited academic ability, he clearly spent most of his time in lessons wishing he could get out of them, as evidenced by a number of tersely worded school reports dating from when he was 12. 'David is continually silly, which he cannot afford to be if he wishes to make progress,' his French teacher wrote. 'I can only hope for a more mature approach.'
The French teacher was not alone: none of the others seemed to rate David's abilities very highly, either. 'His behaviour has been extremely silly,' thundered the doyenne of Home Economics. 'Could do a lot better.'
'David has ability but finds it difficult to concentrate,' wrote his Humanities teacher. 'His attitude must improve immediately if he is to fulfil his potential.'
Indeed, it would appear that the only field he was excelling in was the playing field – but even here he came in for criticism. 'David has a natural ability to succeed at most sports,' said his sports teacher, in a reflection that was to prove emphatically correct. 'But he should be careful of distractions, which affect his application.'
As for David himself? 'I would have enjoyed lessons at school more if we'd talked about football,' he said. 'But I was quite good at art – maybe I'd have gone into that if I had not got my break in soccer.'
If truth be told, David was never destined for academia. His greatest enjoyment when confined to the classroom was causing disruption, not swotting for his exams, and his friends felt the same way, too. 'To be honest, teachers used to find David and his friends hard to control,' said a teacher who had once taught at the school. 'He and six or seven of his cronies were together in the same class. They caused quite a few problems. The girls were very bright, very hardworking. But the boys wouldn't listen or pay attention. There'd be paper flicking or jostling around. David would be in the middle of that somewhere. They were boys straight out of a comic at times.'
Outside of school, however, the older generation was taking a very different attitude to the young Beckham. Winning the competition at Old Trafford and his subsequent spell in Barcelona had made him keener than ever on all things football, and the clubs continued to circle. Tottenham Hotspur was still keen and enticed David to spend some time with its school of excellence. Leyton Orient also offered him a trial. And, finally, the great Manchester United joined in: their talent scout, Malcolm Fidgeon, had heard talk of a remarkably talented young footballer resident in Essex and so attended a match in which David was playing for the Waltham Forest Under-12s against Redbridge. David's mother found out about Fidgeon's presence and alerted her son that a very big opportunity indeed might have presented itself.
'I leaped into the air and started to cry,' said David. 'It was a dream come true. It was one of my best games for the district. Being from London and being a southerner, I never thought I would get seen by a scout of Man United. But then I was lucky enough one day and I had a good game for my district side. I remember getting changed and I walked out and my mum called me over – my dad was working. There was excitement in her voice when she said, "It's lucky you had a good game, because there was a scout here from Man United and he wants to talk to Dad to discuss taking you to the club for trials."'
It was a dream come true, not only for David, but for his father, too. Ted Beckham's loyalty to Manchester United had never wavered and the fact that there was a chance that his son was to play with the team he supported was as exciting an event as anything that had happened in his life up until now. David was pretty excited too and, when he was just 14, he signed up as a schoolboy associate of United. The club itself, of course, did not yet realise quite what a treasure they had in their hands, but hopes were high right from the start.
'David is a good prospect,' said a United spokesman. 'We are delighted that he is joining us.'
It was one of those rare moments in life where just about everyone involved had got what they wanted.
Until then, David's most important footballing mentor had been his father, but now he was to meet the man who transformed him from amateur to professional: Eric Harrison. Harrison was the youth coach at United and as such was to take charge of the young Beckham's progress. Indeed, Harrison's input to David's career should not be underestimated: it was he, quite as much as Sir Alex Ferguson, who turned David into the player he is today.
Harrison was modest about his abilities. 'A good football coach is like a good school teacher – they realise the youngsters are the important ones,' he said. 'We do it for the kids, not for our own egos. I have taken so much pleasure from seeing young players develop both as footballers and people. David Beckham might have funny haircuts and lead a different life from the rest of us, but the important thing is, he's a really good kid, as well. Respect was a word I used all the time to Beckham, Giggs and the other players at United. We as adult coaches respect the youngsters and in return the youngsters should also be respectful. I am a hard taskmaster and never let the kids at United step out of line or become arrogant. Players should be confident, yes, but not arrogant where they think they know it all.'
David took these lessons and a good deal more to heart. Something else that he has in common with Victoria is that both were absolutely focused on what they wanted to do in their careers from a very early age and, to this end, David was different from his peer group. While they went out and partied, he stayed home and trained. 'I gave up a lot when I was younger, going out with the lads, parties and discos, leaving my family,' he said. 'It wasn't easy, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. I used to tell everyone and they'd laugh and say, "Yeah, but what else you gonna do?" I'd say, "No, football." United was the dream.'
Football was not the only sport in which David was competing and winning. Four years in a row he won the Essex 1500-metre championship, impressing everyone with his stamina and determination. Other clubs continued to try to tempt him away from his beloved United, but he wasn't having any of it. Wimbledon was one: manager Joe Kinnear tried hard to get him to Selhurst Park, Wimbledon's playing field, but with no luck. 'Beckham must have been about 15,' said Kinnear. 'He was a quiet lad but obviously mad on football and I wanted him. But he told me he had his heart set on going to Old Trafford.'
Indeed, he had and he finally did so in 1991, at the age of 16. It was a tender age to be leaving home, especially for a shy young man like David, but he was to realise a lifelong dream: the beginning of his career at Old Trafford. Not that anyone realised quite how auspicious a career it was going to be, though there were hints, according to Annie Kay who, with her husband Tommie, gave David digs when he first went to Manchester. Firm United supporters and now in their seventies, the Kays had been providing lodgings for young Manchester United players for 30 years.
'When David first came down, I never thought this could be the future England captain,' Annie Kay recalled. 'Having said that, he was always dedicated and a very smart dresser. When he came with his clothes, he had brought seven bags – most young footballers just had two. I said, "You've got some bags!" He said, "I've got some more!" He was very clothes conscious even when he was 16 and stood out in the neighbourhood. The girls loved him, but he wasn't bothered. He'd always be very friendly and always talk but he was very keen on his football. There was not much time for girlfriends.'
It is usually Victoria who is credited for turning David into the male fashion icon he is today, but, according to Annie, David may well have managed it without her. 'Victoria has improved him a bit, but he was very fashion-conscious before he ever met her,' Annie recalls. 'He was never a slob. He was always picky and he'd sort his own room out; he said, "Give me my bedding and I'll change my bed." There wasn't a thing out of place in his room. Not like some of the others we've had here. I'd give Mark Hughes his shirts and everything and he'd drop them on the floor. I'd pick him up but he'd say, "I know where everything is if it's on the floor."'
The Kays' house was convenient for training: it was right next to The Cliff, in Salford, which is where United used to train at the time. And the digs were a find. David had actually stayed in two other places before coming upon the Kays, both of which he'd had to leave – the first because one of his fellow players behaved badly and David got caught up in the row, and the second because he didn't like the food, which didn't go down well with his landlady. But, with the Kays, he found a real home from home, one which was to nurture him while his real family was back in the south.
Beckham himself is well aware of how lucky he was. 'My third home in Manchester is the one that holds the greatest affection,' he wrote in David Beckham: My World, the first of his autobiographies. 'It was the home in Lower Broughton of the terrific Annie and Tommie Kay. Mark Hughes, a legend in my eyes, stayed in the room that I had for a number of years.'
Excerpted from Arise Sir David Beckham by Gwen Russell. Copyright © 2011 Gwen Russell. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 To Ted and Sandra: A Son 1
2 V is for Victoria… 19
3 Everyone Loves a Lover - Unless he Gets a Red Card… 37
4 Super Becks 67
5 The Becks a Man Can Get 87
6 I Take Thee… 103
7 Millennium Man 123
8 Glad to be - Eh? 143
9 Captain Becks 161
10 There's Only One David Beckham 179
11 Be-Ka-Mu 197
12 Manchester 2003 217
13 Hola, Madrid! 221
14 La Calling 241
15 American Idol 259
16 Back to Basics 275
17 To Milan and Beyond 287
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