Saturday, 2 July 2011
A broken down Bentley
We were warned. Nobody can say we weren’t warned.
When Spurs signed David Bentley from Blackburn in July 2008, for a fee with the potential to rise as high as £17m, there were plenty of naysayers muttering darkly about attitude and ego. And that was just amongst Spurs fans.
Our friends up the road, once they’d finished chortling, simply shook their heads and declared with cast-iron certainty that the lad might have talent, but he would never cut it at the top level; that Arsene had seen a flaw not in his technique but in his mental make-up – and that he’d been right to let him go.
It was fitting and encouraging, then, that Bentley announced himself as a Spurs player with that astonishing volley in a 4-4 draw at the Emirates.
Inevitably, that turned out to be his absolute peak. And since then his form has dipped almost as sharply as that shot.
Two moments stand out. The first was when he emptied a vat of ice water over Harry Redknapp live on TV after we’d beaten Man City to clinch fourth in 09/10.
It was vaguely amusing, I suppose, for people who don't have an actual sense of humour, but for him to hijack centre stage at that time, no matter how playfully, seemed sort of wrong. The hard work had been done by others, Bentley just provided a silly little flourish - and chiefly for the cameras. It’s what he does. Redknapp didn’t seem especially impressed, either.
Then, at the start of the 10/11 season he took his place in an unusually weakened line-up against an unusually strong Arsenal in the third round of the Carling Cup. He clearly felt slighted at his inclusion and duly put in a shocking performance to make his point – assuming his point was ‘I’m a deluded grandstander with no grasp of my current worth within my employer’s ranks and I’m simply not prepared to put in any effort to rectify that situation’.
It was, genuinely, like playing with 10 men that night – and by the end of it, Bentley’s Spurs career was effectively over.
A few years ago, this man was regularly hailed as “the new Beckham”. Looking back it seems this must have been based largely on him being English, slow, playing on the right hand side of midfield and having nice hair. But in the beginning, presumably it must have been at least partly to do with talent.
And maybe it had some merit. Beckham has achieved great things at huge clubs and clocked up 115 caps, but is he, at his core, a much more naturally talented player than Bentley? Or has he, whilst never exactly being a Scholes-like shunner of the spotlight off the pitch, applied himself in every minute or every game and every training session in order to build a career of which any player would be proud?
We all now accept that Bentley will not be the new Beckham. He is free of that shadow. What no one will accept is him continuing to be the old Bentley. He needs a fresh start. Again. And soon, surely, Spurs will grant him one.