In the summer of 2007, Tottenham Hotspurs fans had every right to be excited. Martin Jol had led them to two consecutive fifth placed finishes and the scene was set for Tottenham to push on towards the hallowed fourth place and above and Champions League qualification. To get them there Jol invested a club record £16.65m in arguably the hottest young striker in the Premier League, Charlton hitman Darren Bent.
Bent had begun his footballing career with the wonderfully named Godmanchester Rovers, which sounds like something out of a Roy of the Rovers story. At 14 he was snapped up by Ipswich Town and progressed through their youth set up and into the first team, catching the eye with his pace, power and ability to score goals. Making his first team debut aged 17, over the next four years Bent would score 55 goals in 141 games for the Portman Road outfit and it wasn’t soon before the Premier League sides were sniffing around.
Charlton came next and it was at The Valley that Bent made his mark in the top flight. 37 goals in just 79 games convincing Martin Jol that Bent was the real deal. 31 of his goals during his two years at Charlton had come in the league and his performances had been impressive enough to warrant a call up into the England squad in both seasons.
For Bent however, the move to White Hart Lane never turned into the dream move that he hoped for. Early on in his career at White Hart Lane, Martin Jol was sacked and replaced, eventually, by Juande Ramos. Spurs poor season and the change in manager saw Bent register just eight goals in 36 appearances. Certainly well below the level of return that was expected for Bent. The following season was much improved in terms of goalscoring, 17 goals in 43 games, but unfortunately for Bent he never impressed Ramos or his successor Harry Redknapp enough into convincing them he was the striking talent the club needed for the future.
Bent’s problem’s seemed to stem from the fact that he seemed to miss too many simple chances. This led both his manager at White Hart Lane to bring in other strikers to either replace, or rotate with Bent in the team. Bent made many of his appearances for Spurs as a substitute and in view of that, his goalscoring record is pretty decent, but he never convinced either Ramos or Redknapp that he was a viable long term option in attack. Which is why in recent times a succession of strikers, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Robbie Keane, Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch have been brought in.
The final straw for Bent arguably came in January 2009, when Bent missed an open goal with a header in the game with Portsmouth, costing Tottenham two points. When manager Harry Redknapp remarked after the game;
“You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one.”
The writing was on the wall for Bent, this despite him being Tottenham’s leading goalscorer last season and being assured by Redknapp he had a future at the club, despite the recent arrivals of Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Robbie Keane.
Sure enough, in the summer of 2009, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce bid £10m for the striker to end his White Hart Lane nightmare. Even then for Bent the nightmare didn’t die a quick death. The striker accusing Tottenham chairman David Levy via Twitter that he felt the chairman was being unnecessarily obstructive in allowing his move to Sunderland to progress. Eventually on the 5th of August 2009, Bent’s Spurs nightmare ended with him securing a move to Sunderland, where once again he has been amongst the goals.
So why did Bent’s move to Spurs go wrong? It isn’t an easy one to understand. Bent had everything he needed to be a success at White Hart Lane, apart from luck, faith from his managers and perhaps a little self-confidence at times. It wasn’t a bad move by Ramos or Bent, it was simply a move that didn’t really work out for either party.
And since the parting of the ways both Bent and Tottenham Hotspurs have been all the better for it.
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