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Football: I HAD TO GET AWAY FROM EURO AGONY; ENGLAND v UKRAINE, ST JAMES'S PARK, TOMORROW, KICK-OFF, 7.45PM Beckham on the anguish of his lost summer.

Byline: Martin Lipton CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER

DAVID BECKHAM last night revealed how he searched his soul to pull himself out of the mental and physical slump that threatened to overwhelm him.

Beckham returned from Euro 2004 with his missed penalties against France and Portugal summing up a tournament in which it had all gone wrong.

Clearly affected by the allegations over his private life and alleged affair with PA Rebecca Loos, it was the lowest point Beckham has reached since his World Cup red card in France 98.

And the England skipper admitted that he had to remind himself that he had not lost everything in his life or career.

Beckham said: "I never normally doubt myself but there were a few doubts put in my mind.

"People know my family is number one but football is my career and my life. I've been criticised over the years for endorsements and things like that off the pitch but I'd never been criticised before for what I did on the pitch.

"Of course it upset me because I'm a professional, but I don't think I was as bad as some people said.

"But I have set myself high standards and I don't like going below them. I know I can perform a lot better.

"At the end of the tournament I sat down and thought how I felt about it.

"I know what I've got and what I've been given. There's a talent that can't just disappear just like that. For four games I didn't perform as well as I can. I know that and I wanted to put that right. I feel I've done that over the summer.

"When the Mirror's Oliver Holt asked me what I'd be doing in the summer, I said I was launching a soccer school but when I got home my wife had cancelled everything and we just went away for three weeks and did absolutely nothing except spend time with the family. That's what I needed."

Smiling and looking far more at ease than the nervy and abrupt individual who snapped back at his inquisitors the day after England's penalty exit in the Stadium of Light, the captain appeared more in control. While accepting that the Loos allegations had impacted adversely on his displays, he also blamed a personal training regime that had got out of hand.

"I never felt that I'd made a mistake moving to Madrid," he insisted. "I don't regret anything that happened but there were things that were out of my control.

"It wasn't football that affected me. After Christmas my form did dip a bit and that hit me slightly, but the things that were being said about me that weren't true on and off the pitch really affected me for the first time in my career.

"Then when it came to the summer I see now that I did too many weights at the end of the season. I didn't realise it had affected me in the way it did. That's not an excuse, it's a fact."

Beckham said he had put on a stone "of muscle", half of which has already been shifted. "I was just a little bit bored after training," he added. "I used to go to the gym. My wife used to have a massage and I'd go to the gym for an hour and work out. That's about all it was really. Now I've stopped doing weights and haven't done any for four months and lost a bit of weight and I feel good.

"I definitely won't do as many weights as I was doing at the end of the season. That was my problem, not the way I was living my life."

While Beckham maintained he had never considered ending his Madrid career after one season, the arrival of Michael Owen guarantees a familiar face.

And Beckham backed his new team-mate to produce the form to make himself a regular for new coach Jose Antonio Camacho.

Beckham said: "Michael could play anywhere in the world. A striker with his pace who scores goals and gets in the right positions won't have problems in the Spanish league."

CAPTION(S):

HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN: David Beckham shows he has recovered from the turmoil of Euro 2004 on the training ground yesterday; BACKING: Michael Owen; FALLEN IDOL: Beckham shows the anguish of defeat as England crash out to Portugal on penalties at Euro 2004
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 17, 2004
Words:740
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