“We were very working class,” Victoria Beckham tells the camera, before an interjection from her husband.

“Be honest,” comes a voice from behind the door, the familiar Essex squeak of Goldenballs himself. “What car did you get driven to school in?”

A back-and-forth follows before, resigned, Mrs Beckham sighs: “In the ‘80s my dad had a Rolls Royce.”

The exchange is the highlight of a new documentary about the couple, or more accurately Mr Beckham, which purports to be a candid look at the life of, arguably, the country’s most famous couple. The Rolls Royce exchange understandably went viral, David’s cheeky correction and Victoria’s exasperated reaction the perfect summation of the “old married couple” dynamic. Yet the documentary was produced by Mr Beckham’s own company, with his long-time PR listed as an executive producer. Is the film just an extension of Brand Beckham, or a genuine insight into a couple who have fascinated the British public for the best part of three decades?


It’s not quite nominative determinism but it’s in the same ballpark. David Beckham, who would go on to make a living from delivering perfect balls onto the head of some of the world’s best strikers was born in Whipps Cross hospital.

Unlike his future wife, he was born into a genuinely working class family, the son of a hairdresser and kitchen fitter who only ever dreamed of kicking a ball for a living. There’s been a certain revisionism about Beckham the footballer since his retirement, perhaps a backlash to the somewhat hysterical coverage his exploits received in his playing days.

The Herald: David Beckham won the 1999 UEFA Champions League with Manchester United

To hear some people tell it the 115 times capped former England captain was little more than a marketing exercise, swanning from club to club to boost shirt sales. Certainly he was marketable, but you don’t turn out for Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain if you can’t play a bit - and Beckham certainly could. While never quick or particularly tall, he possessed a wand of a right foot and was noted for his leadership and work rate.

Those qualities attracted the attention of his boyhood club, Manchester United, for whom he signed in 1991. Along with Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes he was part of the so-called ‘Class of ‘92’ which lifted the FA Youth Cup in 1992, with all six going on to play for the Red Devils’ first team.

There was scepticism when Sir Alex Ferguson opted to throw the youngsters into the unforgiving world of the English Premier League for the start of the 1995-96 season. Giggs was the oldest at 21 and the season got off to a disastrous start with a 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa, with a 20-year-old Beckham coming off the bench to score a long-range screamer. “He needs to buy players,” former Scotland international Alan Hansen infamously said of Ferguson. “You can’t win anything with kids.”

Hansen will never live those words down. Manchester United and the Class of ’92 went on to win six of the next eight league titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League, including a treble in 1999. All were stars – well, maybe not Butt and Phil Neville - but Beckham would prove to be the biggest of all.

Spice up your life

When Beckham met his future wife Victoria Adams - AKA Posh Spice - she was unquestionably the more famous of the two. Her pop group the Spice Girls sold more than 23 million copies of their debut album Spice, with its lead single ‘Wannabe’ topping the charts both in Britain and the U.S. Their 1998 Spiceworld tour was attended by more than two million people and culminated with two sold-out nights at Wembley Stadium.

The five all had nicknames with ‘Spice’ suffixes. Baby, Ginger, Scary, Sporty and, because her house had a pool growing up, Victoria was dubbed Posh Spice. She and Beckham began dating in 1997 after she attended a Manchester United match and were immediately dubbed ‘Posh & Becks’ by the tabloid media. As countless others can testify though, the red tops can turn on you at a moment’s notice.

Beckham was sent off for a kick on Diego Simeone of Argentina at the 1998 World Cup, with England going on to lose the game on penalties. His act of petulance saw him shoulder the blame for the defeat, with an effigy of the winger hanged outside a London pub and the Daily Mirror printing a dartboard with his face on it. Beckham says he was spat at in the street.

As he reveals in the documentary it was Ferguson and Victoria – the pair married later that year – who helped get Beckham through that period, but fame and football would soon be on a collision course.


Vilified after the 1998 World Cup, Beckham became a hero by leading his country to the next one. The winger was instrumental in a famous 5-1 win over Germany in Munich, and sealed England’s place in Japan & South Korea with a trademark free-kick to equalise against Greece in the 93rd minute. In its wake, Victoria – whose post Spice Girls musical career extended to one poorly-received album - famously revealed her ‘Goldenballs’ nickname for her husband.

Beckham was by this point a celebrity footballer, his every outfit and haircut pored over by the media, and for Ferguson it was a contradiction in terms.

Ferguson says in the documentary: “He changed. There is no doubt about that. That sort of media attention he was getting, becoming a celebrity, was different to what I wanted.”

Beckham agrees: “I knew my career was going to come to an end at some point and I wanted a career after football - and that ate away at the manager. He just wanted me to be the best footballer that I could be and be married to a local girl that wasn't a superstar.”

Things came to a head in the 2002-03 season. Accused of failing to track a runner, Beckham told Ferguson to “watch the video”. The Scotsman replied, in so many words, that he didn’t need to and punted a stray boot in anger. It struck Beckham above the eye, with the midfielder admitting he then tried to attack his manager.

At the end of the season he was sold to Real Madrid.

World tour

Beckham joined Madrid in what was known as their Galactico era, with president Florentino Perez promising one superstar signing each summer. The Englishman joined a team which could already boast Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and the Brazilian striker Ronaldo but the sale of more workmanlike players such as Claude Makelele meant the squad was unbalanced and Beckham’s first three seasons brought just one Super Cup.

The Herald: David Beckham joined Real Madrid in 2003

Perez turned to hardline Italian boss Fabio Capello to get things back on track and, with Beckham’s contract expiring, he was banished from the team. In testament to his work ethic, the Englishman changed his manager’s mind through his dedication in training and helped Madrid to win the league title – but by then it had already been announced Beckham would be moving to Hollywood.

He became the first true superstar of Major League Soccer, joining LA Galaxy where he would win the MLS Cup twice. Cynics noted that his later career moves – LA, loan spells in Milan, Paris – seemed to link up with Mrs Beckham’s ambitions in the fashion world. Whatever the truth, Brand Beckham had to prepare for a post-football world.

Where’s my knighthood?

It’s fair to say the transition hasn’t entirely been a smooth one. While Beckham has been rightly lauded for his charity work, he allegedly called the Honours committee “unappreciative c***s” in a leaked email after being passed over for a Knighthood. A gay icon in his career for his metrosexual dress sense, Beckham was widely criticised for his endorsement of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid, with the comedian Joe Lycett shredding a fake £10k in protest.

Enter Netflix. It would be unfair to describe the documentary produced about the Beckhams as a hagiography, with entertaining and critical turns from the likes of Ferguson and Roy Keane, the latter wondering in exasperated fashion why anyone would buy a designer pen.

In the end though it’s hard to escape the notion that while it’s clearly a high-end production it’s a little safe, a little smooth, a little cozy. A bit less Rolls Royce and a bit more Lamborghini might not have gone amiss.