Becks to escape ban

By STEVE CURRY, Daily Mail

Last updated at 08:49 19 October 2004

David Beckham will this week be charged by the FA with bringing football into disrepute but is likely to get away with a fine rather than a ban.

He also seems certain to retain the England captaincy, despite calls for him to be stripped of the honour after admitting to having deliberately got himself booked in the World Cup qualifier against Wales 10 days ago.

His body check on Wales defender Ben Thatcher during the 2-0 victory at Old Trafford earned his second yellow card of the campaign and meant he served a one-match ban during last Wednesday's game in Azerbaijan, which he would have missed anyway because of injury.

The FA's compliance unit have considered Beckham's explanation and are ready to act, with a fine of around £100,000 the most likely outcome.

The decision will meet with the approval of FIFA, whose president Sepp Blatter was in Baku last week and who indicated that an apology from the England skipper was not sufficient. Though the FA and Sven-Goran Eriksson might have been happy to let the matter rest, they knew that to do nothing would have invited FIFA to take their own action.

Beckham will be relieved that there seems no prospect of him having to surrender his captaincy as he treasures the armband and made the point forcibly when he apologised to the FA, Eriksson and his team-mates.

But the incident has been damaging to FA chairman Geoff Thompson. When he stood pitchside in Baku last week and declared that there was no question of Beckham losing the England captaincy for what he called "an error of judgment", he went beyond his brief.

This is the same Thompson who publicly backed his chief executive Mark Palios over the Fariagate affair in July, again disconcerting fellow FA board members who knew Palios was in hot water.

The England players would be outraged if the FA were to suspend Beckham for any of England's World Cup qualifiers. When Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was suspended pending an investigation into his missed drugs test last

September, there were rumblings of a strike threat in the build-up to the decisive Euro 2004 qualifier in Turkey the following month.

Far better to censure and fine him, or at worst suspend him for next month's friendly against Spain in Madrid, a game which he is likely to miss anyway because of the rib injury he picked up during his battle with Thatcher.

Beckham should be wary of hogging headlines

But Beckham should be wary that his habit of hogging the headlines doesn't backfire on him.

There was some discontent in the dressing-room in Baku because he had taken centre stage when the focus should have been firmly on the side who did make the 3,000-mile journey to Azerbaijan.

That happened because Beckham didn't like the criticism of his challenge on Thatcher and had his representative ring the most sympathetic of his newspaper allies to say he had done it deliberately, knowing full well that it would overshadow the Baku build-up.

There have been signs of erratic conduct since his form dipped and his image as the perfect husband and father became tarnished by lurid tales of infidelity. But it is also a fact that his PR machine is letting him down.

When SFX's Tony Stephens handled him, there was a great deal more responsibility than there appears to be under the successors chosen by his wife Victoria and the decision to admit to tactical foul play was a massive own goal.

Owen hope

Beckham's Real Madrid and England team-mate Michael Owen, meanwhile, could make his Champions League debut for the Spanish club at home to Dynamo Kiev tonight.

The England striker played the entire second half of Real's 1-1 draw away to Real Betis on Saturday after coach Mariano Garcia Remon moved club captain Raul to the left wing after the break.

Despite failing to find the net in six games, Owen's display may just have earned the former Liverpool striker his third start since his £8m summer move to the Bernabeu.

Remon said: "I've got a strong squad and both Owen and Fernando Morientes could be involved from the start or at some point during the game.

"If I think I have to change players or the system I will always do it. Everyone who is in the squad has a chance to play."

While Owen has clearly moved ahead of Morientes in the Real striking hierarchy, he still faces a tough task if he is to dislodge the first choice pairing of Raul and Ronaldo.

Team-mate Luis Figo said the whole squad are fully behind Owen, adding: "We are trying to do our best to make him feel comfortable. It's difficult to change clubs and change countries. Everything is new to him. He needs a period to adapt and time to settle in. We are trying to make it easy for him."