Darren Bent is a polarising figure in the world of football. Some believe was a striker who was rarely used correctly, but when he was, he was verging on unplayable.
Whilst others think that the Englishman was a player that had one incredible season of scintillating form - and then fizzled out.
Bent’s career took off as a 21-year-old, plying his trade at Charlton Athletic. After two impressive seasons, scoring 31 goals between 2005 and 2007, Bent earned himself a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur.
The move was a club record, at £16.5 million, indicative of Bent’s goal scoring reputation at the time.
Despite Martin Jol’s faith in his talents, he was never able to live up to the hefty transfer fee. Two years and an underwhelming 18 goals later, Bent was sold on to Sunderland, following a string of poor performances.
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Bent’s underachievement at Tottenham was such that manager Harry Redknapp was quoted as saying: “You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one," following a miss in front of an open goal.
Once again commanding a transfer fee of £16.5 million, Darren Bent began life at the Stadium of Light in 2009. It was there that he made his name for himself as the clinical finisher that some still perceive him to be.
In the 2009/10 season, the striker found the back of the net 24 times in a Sunderland side that was truly poor. So poor in fact, that Bent’s tally of 24 accounted for 50 percent of the total number of goals scored by Sunderland that season.
It was this form that caught the eyes of England manager Fabio Capello, earning him a spot in the preliminary 30 man World Cup squad. However, he was not deemed worthy of the final 23 man squad, in what was regarded as a controversial omission.
In spite of Capello’s promise to pick players based on their league form, it seemed Capello went back on his words, favouring the aged Emile Heskey.
It is my belief that Capello’s blatant disregard for Bent’s outstanding achievement mentally shook the striker. Despite scoring only two league goals less than Wayne Rooney, the highest goal scoring Englishman that year, Bent was still not considered to be one of Ehis country's 23 best talents.
Since Capello’s cold shoulder, Bent has seemed a different player. An unmotivated player. He has lacked the drive and desire that resulted in his unfaltering ability to arrive at the right place at the right time. Once the strikers love of the game dried up, so did his goals.
Three torrid seasons at Aston Villa and one unfruitful season on loan at Fulham brings us to the present day. In those four years, Bent managed to score just 24 league goals – the same tally he managed in his standout season with Sunderland.
Earlier this week, Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert allowed Bent to move on a month long loan to Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion.
Brighton boss Sami Hyypia still has faith in the ex-England internationals goalscoring abilities, explaining: “His record speaks for itself. He is a top-class striker with more than 100 Premier League goals with Charlton, Spurs, Sunderland and Aston Villa.”
However, I fear that Hyypia’s faith in Bent may be misplaced, as he has appears unrecognisable in comparison to the fox in the box that we saw bring warmth to the Stadium of Light five years ago.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how the 30-year-old fares over the next month - and whether or not he is still capable of being deemed a goal-machine.
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