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Freddie stamps out Becks

London, Oct. 9: There are a growing number of fans who say that the captain is past his best and should step down. There are others who add that the foreign coach should be sacked as well.

As matters now stand, the nation can find few reasons to be optimistic about the team’s chances at the next World Cup.

As the sun sets on David Beckham, it is rising on England’s favoured new son, Andrew Flintoff, who is to have a 2006 calendar all to himself, it was announced today.

That is on top of the four new stamps commemorating England’s “Ashes” win which have just been issued by Royal Mail, including one depicting Flintoff. The Poms are expected to lick these stamps on in generous quantities in the Christmas mail posted to their cousins in Australia.

Fortune favours the Ashes heroes elsewhere, too. More than 100,000 orders have already been taken by retailers for the '7.99 Flintoff calendar which is expected easily to outsell Beckham’s.

Beckham compounded “one of the worst weeks of my life” ' his son, Romeo, has been ill ' by being sent off during the World Cup qualifier against Austria at Old Trafford in Manchester last night.

England scraped through by a solitary penalty, which the England captain did not take although this is supposed to be his speciality. It was ceded to his teammate, Frank Lampard.

So, if Beckham does not play well or take penalty kicks and even manages to get himself sent off, should he remain captain' For that matter, ask his critics, should he even be in the team'

“There are those who argue that he shows more invention at the hairdressers than he does on the football pitch, proof of his flightiness and lack of substance,” Jim Munro, football editor of the Sunday Times, noted today.

Beckham, the Sunday Times reminded readers, was sent off at a critical point during the game against Argentina during the 1998 World Cup. “Effigies of Beckham swung outside inner-city pubs.”

Last night, Beckham was sent off after the referee judged ' perhaps a trifle harshly ' that he had fouled Austria’s Andreas Ibertsberger twice in as many minutes, and that too, just outside the penalty area.

“The madness and gross irresponsibility that led to David Beckham’s sending-off at such a crucial stage of this crucial World Cup qualifier should mean that it was his last act as England captain,” raged The Sunday Telegraph.

At least, Sourav Ganguly’s critics in India haven’t had a go at his hairstyle ' not yet, anyway. The England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, apparently did not know that Beckham, who has missed the last three penalty kicks in high pressure internationals, would this time ask Lampard to do the honours.

“You can see why people are saying the Swede does not do much to earn his handsome ('4.5 million) salary,” commented the Observer.

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