When historians look back at the sports scene at the turn of the millennium, there will most certainly be a chapter devoted to David Beckham. For many, he is the man who free-kicked football into the 21st Century, the template, for better or worse, for what has come to be seen as the archetypal player and proponent of the sport, and its mass effect on the current cultural landscape. A footballer who doesn’t exist merely on the pitch but within the zeitgeist, who arrives with both a physio and a PR. Acclaimed author and Manchester United expert Wayne Barton has now produced a whole book on the man and the megastar.
Experienced writer and producer Barton has been described by former Manchester United owner Martin Edwards as the “preeminent writer” on the club. This is his 12th book with a United theme, following on from such well-received works as his biography of Sir Matt Busby’s second-in-command, Jimmy Murphy, in The Man Who Kept The Red Flag Flying, and this year’s earlier release, King Eric Cantona: Portrait of the Artist Who Changed English Football.
Beckham, his brand, and his brilliance takes the spotlight in Barton’s latest account. The route is well-known, and admittedly well-trodden in publications (with Barton paying due reference and sourcing some excellent quotes), but nonetheless makes for intriguing reading once again: the Class of ‘92, France ‘98, retribution in Barcelona and at Old Trafford, becoming a Galactico, to Live n Play in LA, the end.
There’s an interesting comparison with Bobby Charlton, the journey from hero to zero and back again, which provides an excellent argument for Beckham’s elevation of the role of England captain, and breaking the tricky American market, where isolationism and arrogance has been the key to its success but it was tailor-made for a sports star of Beckham’s stature.
Almost two decades on from the peak of Brand Beckham, when he was truly traversing the barrier between athlete and celebrity with ease, it’s worth reminding what a monumental impact he had on football and the nature of a footballer. Describing a Manchester United trip to Japan in the Intercontinental Cup, Barton says, “The entire team were treated like the Beatles, but Beckham was seen as both Lennon and McCartney.” That statement, if nothing else, should help epitomise the phenomenon of this footballer for generations to come. Similarly, recounting news of Beckhams’s retirement stretching across the planet, with accolades arriving from No.10 to the U.S west coast, and even the man who got him sent off in France, Diego Simeone, is all documented in The Making of a Megastar.
There may not be a lot of brand new information contained within these pages for the thoroughly-researched football devotee, but for fans of both Beckham and Barton, as well as the writer’s affable, accessible style, there’s a lot to enjoy.
Beckham: The Making of a Megastar, Wayne Barton, Pitch Publishing, £19.99