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.