Darren Bent: going, going ….

With M Salut still out of the country, Jeremy Robson is the first to comment on the surprising – and, for many of us, the very disappointing – news of Darren Bent’s transfer request. 

He’s scored thirty odd goals in a season and a half. He has consistently presented himself as a good professional, and has this morning surprised us by asking the club for a transfer. The modern day footballer lies somewhere between a 17th century Pierrot player and a 70s rock star. Despite his goals (for which we are grateful), and the league position which improved considerably, largely due to his strike rate, Darren Bent has never really captured the hearts of the Sunderland faithful in the same way that Messrs Quinn and Phillips did in their pomp, or quite in the same way that Marco Gabbiadini did several years earlier. The Dazzler never really made himself ours. We loved his goals, but the question really remains about whether we really loved him as a player. It’s difficult to love something that isn’t really yours. You might become fond of your next door neighbour’s dog, but he isn’t yours so you will never feel the bond or mutual respect that comes with ownership, and which results from trust, loyalty and a long term relationship. Bent has worn the shirt. He has played well and conducted himself properly and professionally. Sadly you could say the same for your bank manager or accountant or junior school headmaster, provided that you were lucky enough to have a good one.

Comments made to various websites suggest that Darren Bent’s decision to leave is a result of being upstaged in recent times by Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan. How much credibility to give to this view is unclear as Welbeck is now injured and Gyan’s performances have attracted some criticism.  Bent’s performances have been below par for several weeks. It’s difficult to know whether to attribute this dip to a loss of confidence or to the his “head going” to use common managerial parlance. He has fluffed countless chances which he would have buried without thinking just a season ago.

Renowned for his Twittering on everything from Daniel Levy’s intransigence in allowing him to move to Sunderland through to the appalling racist treatment of his mother by a “Sunderland supporter,” Darren appears to be less forthcoming on the reasons for his decision.

Something is clearly amiss. You would think that there would be tears being shed for a player who has scored so reliably and consistently, at least until recently. Perhaps surprisingly, and perhaps not, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Nobody expected Bent to be with us forever, but few probably expected him to want away in this transfer window.  Most of our supporters have already switched their attention to who Steve Bruce will look to as a replacement. That is how modern football is. It’s difficult to imagine the majority of the current breed to be talked about as legends by the fans of any club after they have moved on or retired. The fans quite justifiably have just as tenuous a loyalty to players as the players do to the club badge and shirt. In most cases that’s not very long these days. The badge has always belonged to us. They just borrowed it.

22 thoughts on “Darren Bent: going, going ….”

  1. That’s a great article Salut.

    Sums it all up. No thought about the club that he was leaving in the lurch. Complete disrespect for all our supporters, Steve and Niall, as well as Ellis. Let’s not forget his team mates in all of this. He has arguably let them down more than anybody.

    I’m very much looking forward to Cattermole’s first challenge when we play Villa.

  2. Thanks for your comments … and apologies to KK and others for the delay in getting some up on the board (I’m a part-time human spam filter). M Salut is missing all the action (Joan, stand-in ed.)

  3. Malcolm. Living on the other side of the Atlantic as I have done for the last three years means that I don’t get to that many live games these days. Over here people say exactly the same things that you said about the stars of the NHL who get paid millions too.

    I go with my little lad to watch our local (village) ice hockey team play. They won all of their home games last season and went through the play offs to win the league. It’s a fantastic night out, seeing fast skilful and committed lads battling it out for 3 hrs on a Friday night after coming home from the factory, building site or farm etc, and playing for nothing but the love of the game. The bairn gets in for nowt as he’s only 8 and it cost me $50 for a season ticket. I watch it and enjoy it because it’s real. It’s as real as standing with 12000 at Roker in the Third Division when we had the likes of Hesford and Hetzke in the team. The cost of getting in was inconsequential. I used to turn up every week, and as often as not away from home as well. It was a lot more fun and entertaining than these multi-millionaires are making it even if we are 6th from top.

    I feel sad for young supporters who will go through life with endless transients who come for a year and then leave. Having spent my entire life supporting Sunderland I can’t understand why players who come to our club don’t have their hearts stolen by our heritage, history and passion. That’s the point that Quinny is missing when he is complaining about getting 38k. A good mate of mine who used to be a regular mailed me after the Bolton game which of course we won to say that he’d been and “endured an afternoon of completely sanitised shite!” He hates the SoL and frankly I’m no lover of it either. There must be a lot of people who keep turning up and feel the same way. They keep turning up because that’s what they’ve always done. and say to themselves, “well it’s all we’ve got.” We aren’t going back to Roker. What we supported has gone Malcolm and the Darren Bent saga underlines it as graphically as anything can.

    It’s all gone, all been taken, just like the pits, and the shipyards and the very soul of the region. If I sound like an old fart who thinks that the past was better than the present then I’ve conveyed how I feel. I know from some of the lads posting on here that I am not alone. I suspect we’d have a hell of night if we were all sat down in the pub one night having a bit crack.

    There are a lot of people who simply don’t want to see that the likes of Bent are the lowest kind of mercenary, and that the game is not what it was. They may be in a fool’s paradise but it’s really not for me any more.

  4. Jeremy – I don’t think it’s your support that’s withering. Those of our generation who grew up with Hurley, Montgomery, Kerr, et al no longer identify with the game as it was. After the Notts County game I was toying with writing an open letter to Quinny in response to his plea for greater support at the SSoL explaining why many of us are disillusioned with the business that football has become. In that game there were players who whatever their mental state appeared not to give a toss and didn’t deserve my hard earned cash. Morons off the pitch added to my depression.

    I restrained my thoughts about Darren Bent and his recent glaring misses, hardly daring to think that he barely deserved his place on recent form. In the light of what has gone on since my last comment I am beginning to wonder if maybe I have spent my last afternoon going to Premier League games.

    Last Saturday I saw a great 5-4 game – Loughborough Town v Belper in the Evostick South in what can only be described as blustery conditions. £7, beer and scran another fiver and a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. Much more deserving of my time and money. It’s not so long back – but I would never have thought that about Quinny, SKP, Bally, Alex Rae, Martin Scott, Dicky Ord etc. etc.

    You are right – the focus of our support has been taken from us.

  5. As a Toon supporter and as much as I’d like to gloat about SAFC being a small club, etc. I won’t .. we’ve got the same problem at NUFC in as much as it’s where we are geographically and the majority of good young players prefer the south.

    We’ve tried to ease this in the past by paying silly wages and massive contracts but looked what happened to us … you need players who want to wear the shirt (red n white or black n white) first; you’re better off without Bent. As much as I despise our fat cockney owner for past events, I do think he is getting it right; get young hungry talent or players who want to play .. we pull out of deals now that Fat Freddy would have pushed through, a la Owen, Viduka, Woodgate, etc. it just doesnt work and it’s the fans that pick up the pieces.

    Just my two bob … and I didnt even mention the derby : )

    PS – Great site, very well articulated and fair opinions throughout; one of the best around!

  6. Dave; your post struck a chord with me. Watching the game on Sunday I was beside myself. Not because of the score but because of the manner of some performances, in fact the majority. In contrast to some of the comments made by Patrice Carteron in a lovely interview in the Echo about his feelings for the derby match I saw what would have been described by Peter Reid as ‘milky’ players. I said to my wife that this has the feel of something like a cock fight where those associated care nothing about the participants and only the outcome. It’s almost as if the rivalry between fans has shifted to message boards and websites and that the contest on the field is no longer representative of each fan base. Yes, these fellahs were wearing the shirt but certainly I didn’t have the feeling that we were being represented by them in the sense that their forbears represented us.

    To be honest it would have been more rewarding watching 11 Mackems and 11 Geordies in a darts match to decide bragging rights. The whole Bent saga just adds to it as it has left a very bitter taste in my mouth. I’m not far behind you after 42 years of support, and I’m wondering whether it’s my support that’s withering or simply that the focus of our support has been taken from us, and it;’s just recent events that have brought that into focus.

  7. I now realise that no one in the premier league supports a team as such, it’s just individuals playing together and not one could care less about the other. Frankly I’m tired of it all after 45 years of support and contributing to paying wages to people like DB who has only one interest, his earnings! The game has no ethic and it will surely collapse sooner or later, the sums of money these guys earn is obscene. SAFC fans deserve to have a TEAM!!! at the top as we have waited so long and to be hit with another blow at this point is just shocking. I hope bent (who I admired so much) has an awful time at Villa and lives to regret his greed.

  8. Martin; For me the strangest thing about the North-South divide is the fact that England is so bloody small when compared to our geography here. You are not much closer to me than I am to Sunderland but in the same country where people have pretty much the same accent!

  9. To pay someone with a goalscoring record like his £35,000 a week in this day and age was short-sighted to say the least. I accept footballer wages are obscene, but a reliable goalscorer is gold dust.

  10. With you Jeremy.

    Undoubtedly, to my mind he is leaving either because of the money, or because of his/his wife’s failure to settle in the area, or both. The north – south divide thing is our biggest obstacle – always has been – always will be. But Kevin Ball, for example, quoted in an earlier post, is native to the south, and he made the transition and now loves the north east!! Not only because he became a local hero – but because he loves the region and the people. I lived in Durham and Willington for the first 20 years of my life before moving to London to join the Met. I served in West Ham for 16 years, and had the dubious privilege to attend all of the London Stadiums – mostly Upton Park. Having grown up with the Roker roar, and the unbridled passion of our support, it was quite a shock to experience the comparative silence of Upton Park and Highbury!! At first I thought they had all suffered a bereavement. But it turned out that they just weren’t as noisy/jubilant/happy/uninhibited. The point is, I don’t understand why geography becomes such an issue for football players, when the job satisfaction aspect, and the adulation/appreciation is infinitely greater when plying the trade in the North East.

    London is an impressive city, and an exciting place to live. But you spend an awful lot of you life sitting in traffic, and the people are generally less accommodating, less friendly and way more cautious due to the high mugging rates!

    If I was a footballer, I would be happier playing for a team north of Manchester. But what do I know?

    At least we still have the Brucester. If it was him abandoning the roost I think I would resort to singing about “pretty little bubbles”! have

  11. What happens in the next couple of weeks will certainly determine our season Martin, and it will be an acid test of Steve Bruce’s management. It may well go some way to how we continue our development as a club.

    I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with bad blood either Martin. Over the coming days and weeks the muted acceptance that Bent has done the dirty on us will start to dawn on those who have seemingly been stunned in to silence by his decision.

    I really couldn’t care less about Bent his money, international aspirations or Villa. He is no more important than last week’s fish. I always knew that the kissing the badge was a load of baloney, as well as all his other comments about loving it in the NE etc. He turned out to be a fraud sooner than we thought; that’s all.

  12. The biggest issue for me is our current league status, and the implications this will have on our ability to maintain it. Because, despite my recent optimism, I honestly don’t think Gyan is going to fulfill his early promise. In the absence of Mr Fickle, I think we can kiss goodbye to the Europa League, and that makes me feel traitored. What happened to the “I want to be a household name up here, just like Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips”? Take the dosh and run Benty!! Typical greedy footballer – good riddance!! I know it’s bad blood, but I hope Villa get relegated, and wouldn’t it be sweet justice if we got to Europe, despite Bent??!

  13. Having heard the news upon arriving home from work I immediatley realised that DB’s transfer request was far from a surprise. I remember a conversation with friends recently who are not SAFC supporters who were surprised that I thought there was a chance he may leave in the January transfer window, quoting his goal scoring record and obvious impact this had had toward our ascent in the Premier League, this obviously was very much the case until about October. But things have changed since October, it does not take a genius to see that he has not been the same DB for a while now, but this cannot be solely attributed to him losing form. Our Midfield has been struggling lately and this cannot be ignored as a factor toward DB’s lack of recent goals and has to be SB’s priority during the transfer window, in my opinion only Steed Malbranque ha sbeen putting a decent shift in this area. So to summarise I would say all the very best to DB who has done well for the club and thanks for the memories for now anyway, because you can guarantee that he almost certainly be scoring against us in the future!

  14. It could turn out to be the best bit of business that SAFC ever do Bill. I read somewhere earlier about Bob Murray’s refusal to sell Phillips when 15 was offered, only to let him go for 3M two years later. Quinny is apparently very cautious not to repeat this error. Bent isn’t worth 24M but if that’s what Villa are prepared to offer this is a one time only deal. Take their hands off!

  15. Well argued, Jeremy. You’re pretty much nailed the situation, I think. It is odd that the supporters have never quite taken DB to their hearts, isn’t it? He must have sensed that and I wonder if that wasn’t initially behind his decision to want away. Or could it be that he realizes that he wasn’t likely to become part of a goal-scoring partnership with Gyan or Welbeck and that his solo tally of goals was likely to be eclipsed? Whatever it is, while he’s done a great deal for the team, there’s never been much evidence of a deep-seated loyalty. As you very rightly say of such players, “The badge has always belonged to us. They just borrowed it.”

    So Sunderland was never more than a way-station for Bent. The question that remains is where the hell does he think he’s going? Is Aston Villa the best he can do? From what I’m reading they’re now prepared to pay up to £24 million for him — which to me comes under the category “silly money” — and no one else seems terribly interested in him. So off he goes to Villa where, for that price, they’ll expect him single-handedly to pull them away from the drop zone. There’ll be a huge amount of weight on his shoulders.
    Sunderland could come out the big winners here — a fat chunk of money to play with and one or two decent players who would be glad to come to the SoL. I wonder if Steve Bruce isn’t secretly rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect….

  16. The best that supporters of any club can hope for these days is that they sign a bloke who as a human being turns out to be a cut above the rest. He doesn’t have to be the most energetic midfield player, the best defender or the top goal scorer. He just has to be a little bit better as a bloke. What that boils down to is having some genuine connection with the fans and the club, and the culture of the area etc. There was the faint glimmer at one point that Darren Bent wasn’t just another greedy bastard solely interested in lining his pockets. Another Benno or Bally possibly? Men like these are rare. As it turns out, Bent wouldn’t even understand what it means.

  17. Great posts guys. For me the issue is less about Welbeck, (as Ferguson probably won’t sell) than it is about yet another striker who can’t play with seemingly any partner. It seems strange to me that Bent has been singled out on this issue because Jones was markedly worse in that regard.

    I sincerely hope that the money can be spent wisely in strenghtening the team in the middle of the park. A much poorer finisher than Bent would get a decent quota of goals provided that a decent number of chances are created. Bent was successful in spite of the service he got. Credit to him for that.

    It should be an interesting couple of weeks though eh?

  18. Lots of rumours coming to surface that he wanted out in the summer! The question in my opinion is “why build up all the hype by asking for new contracts, saying he wants to come to sunderland and not some other club etc?” Two answers are the obvious ones to me.. the missus and the manager. But lets not make it that personal. The fact that he at least waited till the derby was over is proof of a good attitude and doesnt want to cause trouble – leave with the fans angry etc.
    He has been a good servant and is a good footballer, although i do agree with those who reffer to him as a tap-in master… some players are made to do that. I always loved Gary Lineker as a footballer playing for england and my mind won’t change.
    It is probably time he moves on. I believe it’s fair to say that finally Gyan isn’t so much of a powerhouse forward, he is a no 9 as SB described him but his attributes are more or less the same as DB’s.
    Question is will sirNQ hold out for the right amount? Can we get Wellbeck on a permanent contract? can we strengthen the post Keane flop-full squad? At the end of the day a good point has been made in a few blogs: Are SAFC willing to risk another SKP losing out on a 13 million bid only for him to go for 3? Jones isn’t that far back either.. he could have gone for more!
    Only thing i hope is that he goes to Chelsea or someone out of reach so he won’t make the difference between us and them over the next few years.
    Sunderland till i die! No matter who the center forward is.

  19. Thanks Darren for the goals, for your largely positive attitude and your clear enjoyment of the game. Sorry to hear you are off so quickly, I had thought better of you than that.

  20. Whilst I am an admirer of Bent and thank him for the great job he’s done for us, I remember not being bothered a few weeks ago when he was injured and Gyan and Welbeck were in.
    Welbeck and Gyan linked up particulrly well at Chelsea.
    True, Bent has an amazing record and mentioned in the same breath as Rooney & Drogba. But is he same class? I don’t know,- take the pens out of his game and what would his total be? He a goal poacher , but scores nearly all from within 10 yards. I think Gyan is perhaps better.
    Having said all that, a minor injury to GYan or Welbeck and our season might go down a drain quicker than we think.

    My hope is that the money will be used to get someone like N’zogbia. R.Keane was mentioned but, …. ? I don’t know?

    All in all, a good bit of business for SAFC!
    (Wish you well Daz)

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