What is going on with David Beckham’s beard? As my Mum would say: it’s not on. Since he first broke through into the Manchester United first team I’ve followed his story with interest – and a beard was never part of the script, surely?
I was there when he scored his wonder goal against Wimbledon in 1996. Bizarrely I’d been sitting next to the late football commentary legend Brian Moore. With United winning 2-0 and the clock running down, he decided to leave, saying: “If anything changes now it will have to be a hell of an ending.” He missed one of the modern game’s greatest goals by minutes.
But he won’t have missed the hype that built up around the United midfielder in the wake of that goal. Neither did I. I worked for Shoot magazine at the time and was sent to several Beckham press conferences – including a toe-curling launch for his ‘Brylcreem Boy’ status – before I got my first exclusive one-to-one interview with him, which took place a few weeks before the 1998 World Cup kicked-off.
We spoke for nearly an hour in some Alan Partridge-style travel tavern. It was a few days after Manchester United had surrendered the Premiership crown to Arsenal, and I managed to only crow about that once. He actually seemed quite weighed-down by that disappointment and didn’t come across as a man about to take the biggest tournament in football by the scruff of the neck. Thanks to Glenn Hoddle’s eccentric management style and an infamous red card against Argentina, he never really got the chance to do so.
The next one-to-one interview I did with Beckham was in Madrid a few weeks before the 2006 World Cup. This one was for the cover of the Big Issue magazine and it had taken months of persuasion from me to convince Beckham’s people to agree to it. Here was a different Beckham altogether to the last time. He was relaxed, lively – rather jolly in fact. We had a laugh about the hairstyles of some of his former Manchester United team-mates – including Rio Ferdinand’s afro – and about the huge sunglasses he was wearing as he arrived for the interview. You know, the usual banter-in-the-Madrid-sunshine-with-David-Beckham-type-stuff.
There’s more to tell about my run-ins with David Beckham, including the story behind fact four here. But that’s for another day, and possibly another outlet.
As he nears the end of his playing career, he has started acting a little strangely. First when he shouted abuse back at the LA Galaxy fans, and now this beard. He is said to be a shoe-in for next summer’s World Cup squad and is on his way back to AC Milan. Could this national treasure be about to write one more dramatic twist into his legendary story? In the meantime, the man who endorsed Gillette razors really ought to follow his own advice and use one.