A six-month injury absence has David Beckham champing at the bit to get back on the pitch and provide a boost for his Los Angeles Galaxy teammates -- and perhaps eventually again for England.
The 35-year-old former England captain has been sidelined since March 14, when he tore his left achilles tendon while playing on loan for AC Milan.
He has said he wants to return on Saturday when the Galaxy host Columbus in a Major League Soccer contest, but coach Bruce Arena said he hadn’t yet decided if Beckham would play.
“Not playing for six months is tough,” Beckham said after training Thursday. “It’s the first time it has happened to me.
“I’ve had injuries, but nothing that’s kept me out for so long. It did make me realize how much I love the game, and I’m not ready to finish.”
Two days after he was injured Beckham had surgery, and the recovery period saw him ruled out of England’s World Cup campaign.
Beckham, England’s most capped outfield player, took part in his first full training session with the Galaxy on August 11.
Doctors originally predicted Beckham wouldn’t be ready to return until October, and he’s delighted to be ahead of schedule.
“I’m ready,” Beckham said. “I’ve been working hard with the rehab, and I’m trying to get the strength back in my legs. ... I think I can play some part of the game (Saturday).
“Obviously, with not playing for six months, it has to be a careful few minutes at a time. If I can play 10, 15, 20 minutes, hopefully I can do that.”
Arena, however, said he wouldn’t take any chances -- although the Galaxy have activated Beckham from the disabled list.
“I think he’s ahead of schedule,” Arena said. “Our original goal was to get him back on the field October 1.
“We think that could be moved up. The decision-making has to be based on getting David on the field when he’s ready to play and not susceptible to an injury, and it also has to be in the best interest of our team, but it’s getting close. ... He is a guy that likes to defy the odds.”
Beckham helped the Galaxy reach the MLS Cup final last year, but hasn’t played for the team yet this season.
The Galaxy have faltered after a strong start but still lead the MLS Western Conference.
While Beckham is focused on the remainder of the MLS season, he hasn’t given up on the possibility of once again playing for England.
England manager Fabio Capello was criticized last month for saying Beckham no longer figured in England’s plans, and later seemed to indicate that the door might not be completely closed.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with Fabio, and that has not changed,” Beckham said. “He’s England manager, and he has to look to the future, look to some great, talented young players coming through.
“These players need to be given the chance, and they will be. But obviously the manager is aware that there needs to be some old heads in there, and some experience.