Thursday, 13 January 2011

All Bentley, no drive


David Bentley obviously longs to be referred to as 'mercurial' and 'enigmatic'.

He's probably far less keen on 'lazy' and 'a twat'. Tough.

What he really wants is for people to shake their heads and talk wistfully about how he wasted his talent. In the same way European Cup winner George Best wasted his talent; in the way finest English midfielder of his generation Paul Gascoigne wasted his talent. And they both did, to some extent. But they had such an abundance of it in the first place that even with their in-built profligacy, they were still left with rich gifts. And we indulged them. And we benefited - as did their teams.

Bentley had the same swagger, attitude and compulsion for self-destruction, but without the initial reservoir of skills. Just a puddle of hair gel, really. So when he was wasteful, he actually became talent negative. He didn't have enough of the stuff to be able to afford to spill a drop. He had the mindset of a wayward genius and the game of, well, of a decent but limited Premier League midfielder.

That incident with the ice water bucket at the end of last season summed him up pretty well. I mean, it was vaguely amusing, I suppose, for people who don't have an actual sense of humour. But him taking centre stage at that time seemed irrelevant, if not plain wrong. The hard work had been done by others, Bentley just provided a silly little flourish - and chiefly for the cameras.

Earlier this season he started in that Carling Cup disaster against Arsenal. It was genuinely like we were playing with 10 men. Or, as I remember it, four men, three women, two girls and a paraplegic. But even then, with the team struggling and him having a nightmare, he continued to try and flick and trick his/our way out of trouble. Because, presumably, to actually try, to get your head down and run and work and pass the ball accurately, with, y'know, the conventional part of your instep, that would have have been to admit to mortality; that's what normal players 'resort' to. And Bentley wasn't having that. He'd showboat his way into form. Yeah, that always works.

Compare and contrast with proper player and proper genius, Luka Modric: twice as talented as Bentley, but full of running, team spirit, selflessness, courage, intelligence, tackles... okay, yes, sorry, calming down. If he was good looking the Gods would resent him. And my marriage would be in trouble.

And then there's the Beckham comparison. Now, obviously, this is based largely on him being English, slow, playing on the right hand side of midfield and having nice hair. Oh, and they're both called David. But in the beginning presumably it was at least partly to do with talent - or at least with style of play.

Now, Beckham's a better player than Bentley, obviously, but, at his core, maybe not by much?

But, whilst 'eckham isn't exactly a Scholes-like eschewer of the modern game's trappings, the boy sure does apply himself. That game against Greece that really ratcheted up his fame and global standing? He basically just ran around a lot. Okay, ran around a lot and planted a perfect free kick into the top corner in the last minute. But mainly he ran around a lot.

All 'entley really took notice of was the lifestyle, the wife, the sponsorship deals and the sarong. And because of the financial nature of the modern game, he's probably got them all (well, not the exact same wife, and not the blue chip sponsorship deals, but more money than he can spend and more of the spotlight than is good for him). Trouble is, there's no substance. It's like buying a gold plastic Oscar from one of those movie memorabilia shops. It's nice and shiny, but lightweight and meaningless; there's nothing behind it. And if you stick one on your mantelpiece you're a twat.

Best of luck, Birmingham.

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