David Beckham and Oasis: a Tale of Career Decline
They won’t like this but David Beckham’s retirement from football this week put me in mind of a bunch more readily associated with the other half of Manchester, Britpoppers Oasis.
Both came to prominence in the mid to early 90s; Oasis at Glasgow’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and Beckham at Preston North End’s Deepdale ground. Initially, the characteristic that united them can be broadly defined as swagger.
Beckham would hurtle down the right flank on buccaneering runs before angling in impossibly delicious crosses while Oasis would brandish their guitars like totems; Liam Gallagher’s snarled vocals and Noel’s lofty hauteur marking them out as the coolest kids in the gang.
From the audacity of that half way line lob at Selhurst Park to the opening drumbeat on Live Forever, we lapped it up — and so did the celebrity mags — Patsy Kensit, Meg Matthews and Posh Spice were all corralled into the sphere of influence. Manchester United started notching up league titles while Oasis collected number ones.
But even at the time, one thing seemed evident. These guys were good — but not that good.
Sure, that was a fine United side and Beckham was pivotal to it — but his talents seemed prosaic compared to those of Eric Cantona or Ryan Giggs. Similarly, Definitely Maybe and What’s the Story (Morning Glory) were packed full of anthems — songs that live on in the backstreet pubs of Burnage and Irlam to this day — but time has now decided that Oasis were a very poor third to Blur and Pulp.
What both achieved was a recasting of traditional British virtues of effort and graft — the traditional, the uncomplicated and the worthy. In their wake, trailed the ‘Dad Rock’ of Ocean Colour Scene and a Paul Weller as caricature, while James Milner, Michael Carrick and others signal the eternal British need for an understated hero.
For did anyone beyond Dover see Oasis as an important band? — and did anyone at the other end of the Eurostar see Beckham as an all-time great?
Bad boy behaviour — bust ups on cross-channel ferries and a lashing out at Diego Simeone – did perpetuate the myth while Rebecca Loos and illicit pharma provided their temptations for the songsters.
But as injury and the superannuated bombast of Be Here Now set in, we were left with a kernel of those heady early days.
Throughout the agonising run up to the 2002 World Cup, Beckham’s metatarsal was keeping us awake at night, but just as the Gallaghers were settling into a cycle of one disappointing album after another, that foot injury was to signal an eleven year period of modest achievement for the Leytonstone man.
As we have subsequently seen with Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Andriy Shevchenko, Ronaldinho and Fernando Torres, a blessure is far from a blessing — and whole careers can founder.
From a bitterly disappointing Euro 2004 and that scuffed penalty to being outshone by greater talents at Real Madrid, it became embarrassing to mention Beckham in the same breath as his contemporaries — Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane and later, Lionel Messi. Similarly, reappraisal casts Oasis as somewhere between The Animals and the Manics in the British Pop pantheon – decent but little more.
So, we can be thankful that the Mancunian rockers put us out of our misery a few years ago now, even if Beady Eye continue to enjoy the baffling patronage of Radio Six Music, while yesterday, old Golden Balls stepped down too, leaving him free to pursue the public relations career that always constituted his main skill set.