Peter Shilton has told David Beckham he will never beat his England appearance record and believes Fabio Capello’s side are doomed to failure in their bid to win the 2010 World Cup if the midfielder is in the side.
Goalkeeper Shilton won 125 caps during a 20-year international career, 23 more than Beckham’s current total.
It appeared that former Manchester United and Real Madrid star Beckham’s Three Lions career was all but over after Steve McClaren dropped him having succeeded Sven Goran-Eriksson after the 2006 World Cup.
But Beckham has fought his way back into contention, both under McClaren and now Capello, and is currently the man in possession of the No7 shirt.
It was widely expected that young pretenders such as David Bentley of Blackburn Rovers, and Aston Villa’s Ashley Young would step into the right-wing role Beckham has filled over the past decade.
But neither has impressed sufficiently to emerge as a permanent replacement – and Shilton believes England will suffer if the LA Galaxy midfielder is asked to play as many as seven games in the month-long World Cup in South Africa at the age of 35.
“I don’t think David will break my record but if he did I would certainly be the first to congratulate him,” said Shilton, who was speaking at an event organised by England team sponsors.
“For an outfield player to break it in the modern game would be fantastic, and I believe he has a role to play with England in the near future.
“But I have to say if we haven’t got anyone to take David’s place we will struggle to do anything at the next World Cup.
“We are going to play so many games in a few weeks and that gets tough when you are in your mid-thirties.
“David will have a role to play, but if people like Bentley can’t come through and push him then I think we have got a problem.”
But Shilton, who appeared in three World Cups and was a member of the Nottingham Forest side that won the League title and two European Cups under Brian Clough, is adamant Beckham must be in the squad – both to act as an ambassador and a mentor.
“We won’t be able to rely on David in the next World Cup but there is definitely a place for him as he is a great ambassador and is also such a great player technically, for example with his wonderful free-kicks.
“But you would hope to have players who say: ‘I want that position’, and we need those players to come through.
“They have to pressurise the likes of David and (goalkeeper) David James, especially as Beckham is now 32 and he has done very well for an outfield player.
“Like I say, it’s not a problem if he beats my record for international appearances. Good luck to him if he does it – but I really think it will be difficult for him.”
And Shilton has thrown his weight behind Chelsea skipper John Terry in his bid to become Capello’s first permanent captain.
The Italian has experimented during his first seven months in charge, allowing Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Beckham and Gareth Barry to wear the armband during the four friendlies he has presided over to date.
But Shilton is adamant Terry – McClaren’s choice as captain – can reprise the roles played by the likes of Terry Butcher and Bryan Robson during his own playing days.
Shilton said: “I really like John Terry as a leader. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and if ever you need the ball cleared off the line or a goal scored when you need it then he’s your man.
“He is just a natural leader on the pitch and would definitely be my choice.”
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