Not good enough for England? A Bent judgement


Bent for England. The cry was heard again after his latest goalscoring feats. But some observers feel Fabio Capello will not be swayed by his remarkable record in a team that – at least before our mini-run – had hardly kept him supplied with a consistent stream of quality service …

The Daily Star is not a newspaper to which Salut! Sunderland turns as a matter of everyday routine.

It may be a fountain of wisdom and truth, but we prefer other sources of information. But an item about Darren Bent’s suitability – or supposed unsuitability – for a place in England’s World Cup squad leapt from the laptop page.

“Darren Bent’s 21 goals for Sunderland this season have done little to convince his critics that he is England calibre,” the report began. “And even if Bent goes on to hit 30 in the Premier League this season – generally considered to be the mark of an outstanding goalscorer – he will remain a long shot to force his way into Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad.”

You don’t need too long a memory to be taken back to Euro 2000, when one Kevin decided that another was not good enough for England.

Kevon I was Keegan, a good player in his time who impresses some when it comes to managership but leaves many others cold. Kevin II was SuperKev, who had just scored 30 goals in the Premier; he also won that season’s Golden Boot award as the top striker in Europe.
At least he was taken along for the ride to Holland and Belgium, but he didn’t get a sniff of a place in any starting team, or even a call-up from the subs’ bench.

Keegan’s team managed to lose two of the three group stage games. The tournament lost nothing from our exit, or from the departure of that feral minority among the travelling support that had done its usual anti-PR job on the good name of England (how big or small a minority has been explored here on more than one occasion). But it was a relief for Sunderland fans that leaving aside the gross unfairness of his exclusion, Phillips could be blamed by no one for our failure.

In a rare outbreak of fairness towards Keegan, I would say Phillips’s all-round game improved after Euro 2000. He already looked a very good footballer even when not in front of goal, but he became a much better one, causing some Sunderland fans to start wondering only a few months later whether his best position might not be as an attacking midfielder.

Bent’s problem is similar to the one that handicapped SuperKev: he is, at this stage of his career, seen as a goalpoacher and little more.

Steve Bruce can recite, as often as he wants, the mantra that Bent has given a lot more to the side, that he “works hard for the team, his link-up play is decent, he’s quick, good in the air and all told, is an excellent all-rounder”. The words are lost on his striker’s detractors.

I got involved in a lively little debate at the VillaTalk site after posting a message thanking one of its subscribers, Josh Henwood, for his preview at Salut! Sunderland of tonight’s match at Villa Park.

The site moderator, “BOF”, entered into the spirit of goodwill: “Good stuff. And if you look around the ‘other football’ forum you’ll see that a lot of our posters have Darren Bent in the top 10 players in the world list.”

I reminded BOF that a Mackem posting to the BBC 606 site had cheekily offered the following equation should we come under unstoppable pressure from Martin O’Neill: “If he REALLY wants Bent…I’d say G Agbonlahor + A Young + £10m for D Bent + A Reid.”

It was all too much for “Warnock of Kidderminster”. “Sunderland fans expect better players than they can bargain for,” came his waspish retort. “All the time.”

At first glance, a very odd comment., even odder than “ClaretMahoney”s claim that the 606 taunt was very cheeky indeed because Reid was s*** (he’s not).

But rather than reply in similarly derogatory terms, I said: “Yes, the simple fact is that it’s even harder to get players of any stature – or, maybe as important, Mrs Players – to move to the North East than it is to the Midlands. You’d say people are mad to be negative about Birmingham and I’d say the same about my region, but it happens all the time. It’s human nature; I have spent most of my own life living and working elsewhere.

“That said, another simple fact is that Mr Bent is a more effective striker than anyone you’ve got. How can he be otherwise when he has scored so many goals in a team that has been useless for much of the season? Whatever happens tomorrow, Sunderland for once have players you’d have to break the bank for.”

BOF was still smiling on Salut!. “And a player many thought we should’ve broken the bank for when he was leaving Spurts,” he wrote.

“Carew-Villa” challenged my argument, insisting that Carew’s 13 goals from 10 starts showed he might be more effective if fit for most of the season. He seemed to change tack and admit that Bent was probably the better goalscorer, but added: “The reason why I don’t think he will get in the England squad is that he doesn’t seem to contribute much else to the team other than scoring goals but we’ve already got Rooney and Defoe to score us the goals and I think Capello wants two goalscorers and two hold up players and to be honest, Defoe just edges Bent in terms of goalscoring ability IMO.”

I know SAFC fans who support Carew-Villa’s analysis (on Bent vs Defoe); there are clearly many non-SAFC fans who agree with Steve Bruce and BOF.

But the jury is still out. It’s not a jury of 12, but of one and if the Daily Star is right, Darren Bent may yet have to settle for sitting at home and watching televised coverage from South Africa.

Colin Randall

* With thanks to A Love Supreme for the images: the ALS Darren Bent T-shirt.and Kevin Phillips.

10 thoughts on “Not good enough for England? A Bent judgement”

  1. Mile: I shall reply to you via the e-mail link you used when posting the above. But the link has nothing to do with the topic on which you’ve commented, so must go.

    ps Ah! Just tried it. The e-mail address you used does not exist. Where, I wonder, does that leave us?

  2. Hi guys,

    Hope you don’t mind me posting here. Since you’re all SAFC fans I thought you might be interested in SAFC news Syndicator – it’s a downloadable application that pulls in real-time news for SAFC .
    It’s free to download, easy to use and it updates news about 20min before newsnow!

  3. I watched the Hammers v Wolves game last night. The West Ham team has England through its spine Green in goal almost certain to travel, Upson thought to on the periphery but expected to go, and Carlton Cole thought to be ahead of Bent in the stricker stakes. All three were abysmal and if England have them as back up they will not even go close in the WC. Bent on the other hand scores and gets in the right position to create goals, Cole was simply awful. I’m sure Mr Capello is a good judge and he must see he needs goalscores and apart from Rooney he hasn’t got any, I’m I mad or are they all missing the point, BENT HAS TO GO, THERE IS NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE

  4. I’m not so sure Darren Bent will want to further his international career at the expense of leaving a club which gives him virrtually everything he needs, he appears to be extremely content at the treatment and adulation he gets at Sunderland, and seems to genuinely love the area so perhaps rather than chasing a pipe dream in playing at international level, he will adopt Kevin Philips’s decision to accept the staus quo, be loved and adulated for his wonderful talent and leave the bun fight and politics to the idiots at the F.A.

  5. Jeff – I couldn’t have put it better myself – I think the London and Big 4 comes into this – If Bent was playing regularly for a London club or Liverpool/Man Utd and possibly Man City now, then he’d be picked every time. If he was at West ham, the manager would probably be sacked for not picking him… I feel so sorry for the lad but fear that this “politics” could cost Sunderland in the end as players like DB will move clubs to further their international career

  6. I don’t think anyone can doubt Darren Bent’s ability as a striker, but I also think playing for England demands more than being No1 goalscorer. Fabio Capello I don’t think has absolute authority when it comes to choosing players, I think tradition, old pals act, call it what you will takes precedence. Mr Capello is Italian, he knows a goalscorer when he sees one, and Darren Bent ranks in the first echelon, to put it mildly he’s a natural choice in the betting, but the powers that be want their own choices in, and sadly it’s always been that way Capello is the front man, but the powers behind the throne say who’s in or out, I think the word is “politics” Fortunately it doesn’t really matter as we as usual will be returning empty handed with our tail between our legs and all the usual excuses. thankfully Darren Bent will have had no part in the fiasco . Roll on So Africa.

  7. As a Sunderland fan, I’d love to see Benty go to the WC.

    His goal ratio is excellent considering, lets be honest, he’s not in a team that can supply a great deal of creative service. Yes, we’ve got Andy Reid but if Bent is playing for a top 5 side, then he’s getting a lot more service and more goals obviously.

    I reckon Bent’s lack of recognition is probably due to the fact that he’s not a goal-scorer that “catches the eye”. I mean, he doesn’t score spectacular goals like Rooney. He is more a predator type who scores 99% of his goals well within the 18 yard box.

    His work rate, movement is very good and he’s a team player, so I hope thats enough to convince Fabio but I think he might take Crouch and Defoe who have got more experience in the England set up. Crouchy gives us something different.

    Anyway, as a Sunderland fan, I still hope he goes as he’s done a good job for us this season. Good luck Benty!!!!:)

  8. Capello will be under intense scruitny for the world cup selection. Taking Rooney as the only natural, and very effective, goal scorer is taking a risk. Any injury to Rooney will leave England without a natural goal scorer.

    Crouch is too one dimensional and leads to a very predictable line of attack. Defoe goes AWOL during games too often against Premiership opposition never mind International class.

    Don’t get me wrong, combinations of the above three could reap a lot of benefits but without Rooney, or a reliable replacement in Bent, it will leave a jaded and blunt England attack.

    The situation regarding Bents prospects because he plays for Sunderland is predictable and largely Media generated. The ‘good members of the press’ have not only a reginoal bias but incredibly short memories regarding their attempted interference in England team and manager selections to numerous to go in to here.

    Lets hope that Capello is above their petty interferences and picks the squad on sound footballing terms. If this is the case then darren Bent still has a good chance of going to South Africa and I think we will all agree that this will improve Englands chances of going the distance.

  9. I think you’re right Marcus. Wasn’t SuperKev making the point the other day, too, about how playing for Sunderland is a big handicap? Some people just refuse to see, though, that if a player gets so many goals in an underperforming team, he must have something special, never mind the other comparisons you have already made.

    Let’s hope Short, Quinn and Bruce get rewards for their determination to break the ludicrous mould. And be grateful that DB seems to love it at SAFC.

  10. I have posted recently anb analysis of Bent and Defoe’s goalscoring this season – Bent has better goals to game ratio, has scored in more games, better disciplinary record and scores more goals against better sides (Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool) – I only compared the “Big 4”)

    Bent is on top in all of the stats except assists – where he has 1 and Defoe has a massive 3 (it was 2 when I wrote the original article!!)

    Statistics don’t lie – I think Bent, given a chance, will be a top top striker but, unfortunately, he plays for Sunderland so will probably never get a chance


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