Beckham’s recipe: work hard and then work even harder

John Inverdale
IF YOU don’t like David Beckham, there is clearly something wrong with you. Whatever your view on his position in the pantheon of great footballers, and Chris Waddle’s contention that he wasn’t in his top thousand was among the most churlish assessments of recent memory, you had to love the show of emotion as his career ended in Paris. “Don’t go, David,” you cried at your TV screens while the voting continued interminably in the Eurovision Song Contest.

By that stage on Saturday night Jess Ennis was probably onto her second white wine spritzer after her wedding in the Peak District. Not much requirement for her to get in shape for the big day. That most radiant of smiles was broader than ever as she fitted in her marriage around training and competitions, with her outdoor season starting in Edinburgh in less than three weeks.

By which time Jonny Wilkinson may well have found himself called out to Australia as a replacement for the British and Irish Lions. Did you watch his performance in the Heineken Cup Final for Toulon?

Don’t dismiss the headlines as mere hyperbole. It was astonishing in terms of commitment and the unquenchable desire to be a winner. Charging down that drop-kick right at the end! He said it was better than the World Cup victory because it was “about the now and not the past”, a point that Ennis would doubtless echo as she moves on from her Olympic triumph. Three masters of their chosen disciplines, three winners, who have understood from day one that there can never be any resting on laurels, and there is no substitute for a solid work ethic if your talent is to reach fulfilment. Becks with his free-kicks and long, raking passes. Jonny with his goal-kicking. Jess with her javelin throwing – a supposed Achilles heel and yet she conjured up a personal best when it mattered most. A simple philosophy: work hard and then work even harder.

A lot of garbage is written about sports stars as role models. Some are. The overwhelming majority are not. The Danish winner of Eurovision may end up with the longevity of Abba but you suspect it will be a fleeting flirtation with fame. But these three are heroes. Not just for one day, but for all time.