David Beckham’s time at Preston North End

By Henry Church Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/30 18:43:40

David Beckham Photo: VCG

A quarter of a century ago, David Beckham made his debut for Preston North End in the English Football League Division Three, now EFL League Two. 

The midfielder would go on to be captain of his country. Far from that, he was also with Real Madrid, AC Milan and indeed being a regular in the Manchester United first team when he went on loan to Deepdale in March 1995.

The 19-year-old was not a household name when Alex Ferguson sent him to the third tier to experience men's football. 

The biggest star of Fergie's Fledglings was on the fringes of the first team, having made several appearances and already scored in the UEFA Champions League, scoring a goal in a 4-0 home win over Turkish giants Galatasaray in the final game of the 1994-95 group stage.

But these were his first footsteps on a football career.

In fact, the young Beckham was worried his career at the top was over before it started, fearing that this was a sign Ferguson was looking to offload him.

"I was shocked," he wrote in his autobiography, My World. "I thought it was a sign that a club was trying to get rid of a player," he said of being sent on loan. 

These worries were no doubt bigger towards the end of a season before the summer transfer frenzy. Ferguson reassured Beckham and off the youngster went up the road to Preston.

No easy introduction

There was embarrassment when his new boss Gary Peters told the Preston team that Beckham would be on set-piece duties, which was a source of more pointed fury from regular Deepdale dead-ball specialist Paul Raynor. 

It has also been said Beckham was used to the five-star treatment at Old Trafford, leaving his dirty kit for someone else to clean, something that did not was at the Lilywhites.

But on the pitch it could not have gone better. Beckham made his debut on March 4, coming on from the bench in the league clash against Doncaster Rovers at Deepdale. Beckham entered the action at half-time and had an instant impact.

The decision by gaffer to replace Raynor with Beckham on dead-balls on the Manchester United loanee's debut paid immediate dividends - Beckham scored direct from a corner.

He would score direct from a free-kick the next game, a goal that he would later describe as one of his all-time favorites in an interview with Sky Sports.

"It was a different time and a special time," Beckham said, "When I look back on it is a month when I went on loan to Preston and I was worried about my career at Manchester United but I scored a good free kick."

That goal against Fulham came in a 3-2 victory for the promotion-chasing Preston, with Beckham playing from the start. 

He would also help the side to a 5-0 win over fellow Lancastrians Bury,  a 1-0 away win at Exeter City and a share of the spoils with Lincoln City in a 1-1 draw at Sincil Bank. That would be it, just five games, as Ferguson called Beckham back to Old Trafford.

Beckham wanted to stay at Deepdale, so wrote his father Ted writing in his book, David Beckham: My Son from 2006.

"Gary asked David if he wanted to stay until the end of the season, which David was keen to do," wrote Beckham senior. "He'd really enjoyed the experience and knew it was doing him good, so he said he would ask Alex Ferguson."

David Beckham Photo: VCG

Back to United

The young midfielder travelled back to Manchester United's training ground to ask the Scot.

"David went back to The Cliff and plucked up the courage to knock on the manager's door - I think it was probably the first time he'd ever asked to see the boss. He was nervous about doing it, but was keen to stay at Preston. He calmly told Fergie that Gary had asked him to stay and, if it was all right, he'd like to give it a go."

"Fergie just went mad. He slammed his first on the desk and shouted 'You're not f***ing well going anywhere. You're f***ing well staying here and that's the end of it.' David was pretty upset but he knew better than to argue and just turned and left the office," he added.

Ferguson featured Beckham in the first team several times before the end of the season but the club missed out on the English Premier League title to Blackburn Rovers. Preston meanwhile lost to Bury in the playoffs, ample revenge for the 5-0 win Beckham took part in.

A year later, Beckham was a key part of the side that won the Premier League and FA Cup - at the end of a season that had begun with former Liverpool player and pundit Alan Hansen stating "You can't win anything with kids" after an opening day loss to Aston Villa. Preston also finished champions of the fourth tier.

Those five games were not the end of Beckham's association with Preston. 

He returned several times in the role of supporter over the years, despite an increasingly busy day job as a Manchester United and England regular.

Former Preston teammate David Moyes, who would later replace Ferguson as Manchester United manager, remembered that in an interview with Talksport radio. 

"The biggest complement I can give David Beckham was that season we got promoted down at Leyton Orient, and he and his dad came into the dressing room after the game - he never forgot that we helped start it for him."

Preston may have started it but it ended with 115 England caps, 59 of which coming as captain, and a career that took in nine seasons in the Manchester United first team before moves to Real Madrid, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and LA Galaxy.

For those who remember Beckham's brief dalliance at Deepdale, the footballer was always destined to be out of this world.
Newspaper headline: Becks Appeal


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