OPINION: Beckham's PR handler deserves plaudits

What have David Beckham and the Countess of Wessex got in common?

You probably can't think of anything. For a start they speak a different

language and the last person on earth you would expect to see in the

stands at Old Trafford would be Sophie.

This week, however, they have both been in the news and received a very

positive press. For Sophie, as a result of the tragic loss of her baby,

she has had something nice said about her for the first time in


It's no comfort for her to know that the Queen and the rest of the Royal

Family have been taking the stick normally reserved for her and her

hapless husband for not visiting her in hospital. She would undoubtedly

have preferred to keep her baby and face a hostile press for the rest of

her life but a tragedy in someone's life always seems to have a positive

effect on the media.

I will never forget how the press were writing about how useless Mo

Mowlam was until they found out that she had cancer and she suddenly

became 'Saint' Mo who could do no wrong.

But kicking someone when they're down is the normal rule of thumb and

David Beckham knows that more than most. Sophie's past press was

positive compared to what Beckham once got.

I was at 'that' game against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup when a much

more immature Beckham than today was sent off for flicking his boot at

one of the opposition. England, of course, went on to lose the match on

penalties - a game they would have won if Paul Scholes hadn't missed a

sitter and Alan Shearer hadn't elbowed the Argentinian goalkeeper in the

face as Sol Campbell put the ball in the back of the net.

But it wasn't Scholes or Shearer who got blamed for that defeat, but

poor Beckham. In the whole history of football, apart from the Colombian

player who was shot dead by a fan after scoring an own goal that sent

his country out of the 1994 World Cup, no footballer has ever had to

face so much hostility from the media and fans.

The fact that Beckham is also married to Posh Spice only made things

worse for him as the media joined in a feeding frenzy every bit as bad

as Osama bin Laden has been getting since the 11 September


At the time I thought that the worst job in the world would be handling

PR for Beckham, but someone had to do it and The Outside Organisation's

Alan Edwards deserves high praise.

Beckham has come though all the bad press and is now a national hero, as

confirmed this week as the voted for him to win the BBC Sports

Personality of the Year award. If Beckham can do that, then Sophie could

even win a PRWeek award.

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