Beckham impresses in South Africa
I have been at every England training session in South Africa and each one follows a familiar pattern. Players come out to train, the media film them for 15 minutes, the media are then asked to leave while the players continue to train away from prying eyes.
There is, though, one other pattern that has emerged over the past two weeks. Former England captain David Beckham is usually one of the first out of the changing rooms, striding purposefully on to the pitch, where he chats with manager Fabio Capello and warms up with the rest of the players. He then takes his leave, watching the training session a few yards back from the England coaching team.
I must confess that when I was reporting live from outside the team hotel when the England squad arrived in South Africa, I did wonder what on earth was going on when Beckham was one of the first to emerge from the bus. I just had not expected him to be so prominent, considering that he is only here as a non-playing member of the squad.
David Beckham takes part in a training session at England's Royal Bafokeng World Cup base
I was not alone in wondering what Beckham's role would be but the reason for writing this blog is to tell you all how impressed I have been by the former England captain over the past days.
Beckham does not need to be in South Africa. He could be recovering from his injury wherever he wanted. Let's face it, there is hardly a place on this planet where Beckham could not afford to go.
Ever since he resigned as England skipper in an emotional address the day after the country was knocked out of the 2006 World Cup, he must have dreamed of coming to South Africa as part of the squad. That, of course, was denied him when he snapped his Achilles tendon back in March but Capello's decision to invite him along regardless is a sign of just how much he is respected.
I have become 100% convinced that Beckham is in South Africa for all the right reasons. I am absolutely sure that he is here because he believes his presence can assist his country's World Cup campaign.
Let me tell you why. If he was here on some publicity-generating mission, then he would have tried to generate publicity. Instead, he has kept a very low profile and has not given any interviews.
Even when he went to Johannesburg to support England's 2018 World Cup bid, he refused to speak to a single journalist. He was there on a private lobbying mission (by the way, you only have to see how positively the Fifa voters react when they are in his company to realise how important he is to that campaign).
Beckham meets Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam at the 2018 bidders' conference
And when a couple of England players went to an orphanage in Rustenburg, Beckham could easily have tagged along and stolen all the headlines. He decided to keep away.
Capello has been very vague when discussing Beckham's precise role with the England squad but I understand that the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder has spent much of his time mentoring some of the younger players, as well as acting as an intermediary between the players and the coaching staff. He was also used as a scout before the match with the United States.
I can also tell you that Beckham has turned down all commercial work during the tournament. For example, both the BBC and ITV tried to sign him as a pundit but he chose to commit his time to the England squad instead. Beckham is not being paid a penny for being in South Africa, so you can only imagine how much more he could have earned during June and July.
I could go on but I won't, as I'm sure that some people will be quick to accuse me of being gullible and losing all journalistic sense. What I would say to them, and everybody else as well, is this: Put any cynicism and jealousy aside for a few minutes and you will probably see that Beckham is a man who is proud to be English and a man determined to do what he can to help his country. There is no evidence at all to the contrary.
Beckham's presence in South Africa might end up making little difference to England's World Cup chances but at least he is here trying to help. He is a rare breed. A sportsman who is happy to put his country first.