David Beckham insists he is happy to play a bit-part role for England despite becoming his country's most capped outfield player. Beckham passed Bobby Moore's previous record of 108 caps when he came on as a half-time substitute in Saturday's 4-0 friendly win over Slovakia.
On his 109th appearance in an England shirt, Beckham proved his continued worth to the side, setting up Wayne Rooney with a cross for England's second goal. Beckham's impressive cameo will have given coach Fabio Capello food for thought as the Italian prepares to pick his team to face Ukraine in Wednesday's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier.
A win for England would cement their position on top of European qualifying group 6 and keep Capello's team firmly on course to qualify for next year's FIFA World Cup. Capello started the Slovakia match with Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon on the right flank and his pace caused Slovakia problems at times.
Everyone wants to start for England, but at the end of the day, everyone also wants to play for England
Beckham admits Lennon offers a different kind of threat and he is prepared to start on the bench if it helps England get a crucial victory. "Aaron went past players like they weren't there," Beckham said. "With the pace he's got, he's in exceptional form for Tottenham, he deserved to start. Everyone wants to start for England, but at the end of the day, everyone also wants to play for England.
"Substitutes can be very important. We saw that at Manchester United in the 1999 Champions League final with Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Sometimes substitutes come on and can help secure a game, or change a game. I was happy with getting on and happy with the assist.
"It is what I have done for my whole career, and if I get a chance there are players like Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey or Peter Crouch to get on the end of it. If I start, then I start. If I don't, then I am part of the team - a good team which is going forwards."
Although Beckham is now behind only goalkeeper Peter Shilton - who has 125 caps - in the all-time England appearance list, the former Manchester United star refuses to dwell on his own achievement because he is focused on Ukraine. "I just got asked to do a picture with a shirt with 109 on the back but I did that for 100 and obviously it's a big thing for me but I don't think we should focus too much on that," he said.
"But of course I just couldn't wait to get on and couldn't wait to get to that 109. I said during the week that when I equalled the record I got a note from Stephanie Moore (wife of the late Bobby Moore) saying 'congratulations' and Bobby would have been so proud."
Shilton had complained that he is unhappy Beckham is racking up caps as a substitute, but the AC Milan player received great support from the Wembley crowd as he entered the pitch for the second half. He insisted that there were no pre-match butterflies. "I wasn't nervous - if I'm still nervous playing football and playing at Wembley for England now it's worrying," he said.
Beckham reiterated that his time in Milan has played a big part in his continued renaissance in an England shirt. "I knew and I've always known throughout my career that if I'm fit and in top shape then I can play to my best. Obviously Milan's done that," he said.