IS IT just me or does anybody else out there feel it is time for another Beckham backlash?

Perhaps his dismal penalty miss against France does not warrant a repeat of the burnt effigies following his 1998 red card in St Etienne but then what footballing crime does?

I think, however, that England's 'Captain Fantastic' should, at least, become a bit more accountable for his actions on and off the pitch.

Easy targets Emile Heskey and, more deservedly, Steven Gerard were largely left to carry the can during the post-mortem of Sunday night's agonising defeat against France while Goldenballs' cock-up was largely glossed over and everybody's favourite clown Fabien Barthez - probably now complete with a comedy red nose after catching a shot on the conk - was hailed for a great save.

The truth is Beckham has rarely struck a good spot kick and that's including his scuffed effort in the excellent 1-0 victory over Argentina in 2002, not to mention his Turkey 'fowl-up' last year.

His latest attempt was at a perfect height for Barthez who, after studying Beckham's previous feeble efforts, chose the right way to dive and was not even required to be at full stretch to prevent France falling two goals behind.

Surely now, penalty duties must be passed over to England's real world-class star - Wayne Rooney.

Pug-faced, jug-eared Rooney might not be as pretty as international playboy Beckham but he is infinitely more talented.

Rooney, lining up against the two players widely acclaimed the planet's finest, dismissively shoulder-barged one of them, Zinedine Zidane, to the ground and outshone the other, Thierry Henry, with his attacking potency.

The Everton teenager has both the cockiness and, more importantly, the ability, like Paul Gascoigne before him, to be the best player on the pitch regardless of the opposition. Forget the impetuosity, let's just enjoy him. Please don't smother his talents and appear reluctant to utilise them like we did with Le Tissier and Hoddle in the past.

Beckham's ego, in contrast, is in danger of undermining and jeopardising England's potential as a team.

Like the best player in every primary school team, Beckham seems to want to take everything for England - corners, free-kicks, throw-ins and penalties. Perhaps surprisingly, he trusts David James with goal kicks.

The difference, however, is that the Real Madrid midfielder is not England's best player and needs to delegate some of his responsibilities to more capable team-mates, who do not include the bow-legged kid with national health glasses that was always last pick in the playground.

Unless, that is, Phil Neville is called up to face Switzerland on Thursday.

Beckham is indisputably England's finest free-kick taker and crosser of a ball but let us not, and him not, imagine he is much more.

The contrast between very good player and world-class player was illustrated by Zidane's expert despatching of the match-winning penalty and by Rooney's winning of the one that Becks squandered.

In Beckham's case, the level of his footballing ability could never soar to the heights of his world-wide fame and the two should not be confused.

It was his cover-star status that Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson finally lost patience with before shipping him off to the Bernebeau and, off the field, I am becoming increasingly irritated by Beckham's prima donna behaviour.

So what if he is pictured on his hotel balcony in his Y-fronts? Gazza would have handled that particular situation by dropping his pants. Stop moaning and taking yourself so seriously Becks.

And, as for blaming the News of the World for their uncovering of his alleged extra-marital affair with Rebecca Loos...if it is true, be a man, accept you made a mistake and draw a line under it. If it isn't, give us a denial, not just a statement about what a great husband and father you are.

On the field, shed some of the responsibility that, put kindly, your patriotism or, more cynically, your ego craves and let Rooney lead England to a Euro 2004 revival. Or at least let him take penalties.

TKO was written this week by Dave Flett. What do you think? Drop us a line at 76-86 Walmgate, fax 01904 628239 or email, making sure you include your name and address.

Updated: 09:55 Tuesday, June 15, 2004