Sunday, 8 July 2012

What Next For David Bentley?

David Bentley. The heir to David Beckham's throne on the right side of England's midfield. So it was written. But it didn't quite turn out that way.

Bentley started off at Tottenham's North London rivals Arsenal but made less than 10 first team appearances for the Gunners between 2002 and his permanent move to Blackburn Rovers in January 2006.

There was a loan spell at Norwich City for their ill fated Premier League season in 2004/05, and he impressed enough to earn another spell on loan in the top flight with Blackburn the following season. Then Rovers manager Mark Hughes saw enough during those first few months to want Bentley at Ewood Park long term and after signing permanently he marked his new contract by becoming the first player in Premier League history to score a hat trick against Manchester United, helping Rovers to a 4-3 win.

Seasons 06/07 and 07/08 saw Bentley's stock rise further with a string of spectacular goals and numerous assists and boy hood club Tottenham Hotspur came calling in July 2008 and parted with £15 million for his services. Bentley described the move as a dream and it looked like a perfect fit for both parties.

Bentley struggled during his first season, often played out of position and after the manager that had signed him (Juande Ramos) was sacked, he became a bit-part player at White Hart Lane. New manager Harry Redknapp watched Bentley score a stunning 40 yard volley in his first game in charge, a memorable 4-4 draw with Bentley's ex-club Arsenal, but quickly grew tired of Bentley's lackadaisical attitude and style on the pitch. Many fans commented that Bentley had all the talent, but needed to cut out the flicks and tricks and stick to what he was good at. Sound advice, but it fell on deaf ears.

For all the hype that surrounded Bentley during his early career, he has only managed to play for his country seven times, the last of those coming way back in August 2008 during a 2-2 friendly draw with the Czech Republic.

A rare run in the Spurs side came during their successful 09/10 season when he featured on the right of midfield and impressed after seeming more determined to work hard and put the team first. Aaron Lennon's return from injury saw Bentley return to the shadows though.

Two loan spells away from Tottenham followed for Bentley, firstly in the Premier League for the second half of 10/11 at Birmingham City. Despite being named Man of the Match on his debut against rivals Aston Villa, Bentley struggled for form and consistency during his 15 appearances for the Blues, managing just one goal and no assists.

The start of the 11/12 season saw Bentley loaned to London rivals West Ham United, recently relegated to the nPower Championship. He made just 5 appearances for the East Londoners before a knee injury seemingly ended his season. He was however, unexpectedly named in Spurs' revised 25-man squad list for the Premier League in February, but, more surprisingly, didn't make even a brief cameo.

David Bentley has found himself grouped with the likes of Jermaine Jenas, Sebastian Bassong, Giovani Dos Santos and Heurelho Gomes, the so-called 'dead wood' at Spurs. The majority of fans have been expecting most, if not all of these players to have been sold for the past few transfer windows, but other than the odd loan, all five remain at the Club.

But in an exclusive interview with the People, Bentley has revealed he is ready to start again at Spurs, after assurances from new Head Coach André Villas-Boas has given him a 'clean slate' to start over at White Hart Lane.

Bentley discusses how the media, and the fans, have portrayed him in the wrong way, denying claims he's a 'party boy' and how Redknapp didn't communicate with him when he was left out of the squad. Makes you wonder if he regrets soaking Harry after our 1-0 win over Manchester City at Eastlands. It also makes you question Harry's world renowned 'man-management' skills, were they just a myth? Did they only work if you were one of his favourites?

After seemingly having been written off by the media and fans alike, could Bentley be about to make a comeback in the white of Tottenham. New boss Villas-Boas likes to play with quick wingers, usually on the opposite side to their preferred foot to maximise goal scoring potential when they cut inside, and Bentley has never been know for his pace.

He does however, have great ability with the ball at his feet. He can pick out a great cross or a pass with ease and has the ability to find the net too, be it from open play or from a set piece. It remains to be seen who Villas-Boas will play in his three man midfield. But looking at Bentley's career pre-Tottenham, and during his rare good performances in a Spurs shirt, while there is an obvious lack of pace, he's still sufficiently mobile and has been utilised more centrally on a regular basis. Defensively he may not be as aware as the likes of Scott Parker, Sandro, Tom Huddlestone or Jake Livermore, but if he played as the furthest forward of a trio, he could use his vision and technical ability to unlock defences. With two compatriots with greater engines than Bentley, his defensive work load would be reduced and while not shaking his defensive duties entirely, he could preserve his energy for attacking, spreading the play to the wings and trying his luck from distance.

A solid pre-season of training, matched with some game time, could bring Bentley back into the fold under 'AVB'. While he may not be every fans cup of tea,;he is one of us, a Tottenham supporter.

And there's nothing quite like watching one of your own.

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