THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

30 June ~ 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 £17 million, there were plenty of naysayers muttering darkly about attitude and ego. And that was just among 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. Arsène had seen a flaw not in his technique but in his mental make-up – and Arsenal had 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 icy water over Harry Redknapp live on TV after we'd beaten Man City to clinch fourth in 2009-10. 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 last 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 ten 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 England caps, but is he, at his core, a much more naturally talented player than Bentley? Or has he, while never exactly being a Paul Scholes-like shunner of the spotlight off the pitch, applied himself in every minute of every game and 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. Dave Roberts Such small portions

Comments (6)
Comment by danhobbs75 2011-06-30 13:31:54

He had one such chance at a fresh start last season. His loan spell with the Blues started promisingly, but he tailed off in familiar fashion and ended up doing little to help stop us slipping out of the top flight. I fear he lacks the motivation to ever really fulfil his potential.

Comment by jertzeeAFCW 2011-06-30 14:03:02

Hmmm, we're talking aout a convicted drunk driver who smashed his car up and luckily didn't hurt or kill anyone, a guy who pulled out of the England U21 cos he was a bit tired and blamed Ramos for his lack of form as he was played at right back.....

In no way, shape or form is he anything like Beckham.

Comment by Arturo 2011-06-30 15:06:01

He had a very hit and miss season on loan with Norwich in our last Premier League outing. A very 'on his day' player, and when he played well he was useful. However, Bentley never looked the class act that he was so often touted to be and I wasn't surprised when Arsenal let him go.

My main memory is how he downed tools in that last day horror show at Fulham (not the only one admittedly but one of the bigger culprits that afternoon). If anything, that game set the tone for the bulk of his career up to now.

Comment by Coral 2011-06-30 15:37:48

All I can remember from his Norwich days was him saying how exciting it was to see cows. His boyish sense of wonder at things does not seem to have abated.

Comment by djw 2011-06-30 23:49:25

He's the sort of player who would have been loved in the 70's alongside Charlie George, Duncan McKenzie, Frank Worthington et al, but sadly today in the modern game teams don't seem to have the luxury of carrying such a player. Pity, because when he's in the mood he's great to watch.

Comment by English Republic 2011-07-01 10:24:48

I asked my three year old son what DVD he wanted to watch when we got home the other day and he replied "Football". Not being one to miss an opportunity to re-live a bit of nostalgia for the days when we genuinely challenged for trophies, I plumped for the review of the 2003-2004 "Invincibles" season. On said DVD was a piece on the future talent coming through at The Arsenal and the names mentioned were players such as Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas, Justin Hoyte, Johan Djourou, Seb Larsson and Jeremie Aliadiere. Star of this particular group was a young man who apparently "Shared more than just initials with Dennis Bergkamp" who was interviewed at length. Watching him speak with the benefit of hindsight it was obvious that he was a young man who thought he'd already made it and who believed in his own hype (a kind of Nicklas Bendtner of his day!) who could certainly talk the talk but who at that time had only once walked the walk when he came on for his hero and scored a Dennis-esque goal against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. It is quite sad for him that he has failed to live up to those expectations because he quite frankly couldn't be arsed.

Related articles

The Team That Dared To Do: Tottenham 1994-95
by Gerry Francis and Chris SleggPitch Publishing, £16.99Reviewed by Alan FisherFrom WSC 377, July/August 2018Buy the book On a Tuesday...
How Everton and Tottenham's pioneering tour gave Walter Tull his chance
Embed from Getty Images // Visits to exotic climes are nothing new for English clubs. In WSC 271, September 2009, Simon Hart charted the...
White Hart Lane: The Spurs glory years 1899-2017 by Martin Lipton
W&N, £20Reviewed by Annelise JespersenFrom WSC 373, March 2018Buy the book “The catering arrangements here are the finest on any...