“David Bentley is David Bentley, he ain’t bloody Maradona.” Those were the words of Reading’s Irish midfield player Stephen Hunt after the 0-0 draw with Blackburn on Saturday.
“He plays for England and hype comes with England. People don’t go on about Damien Duff and Robbie Keane every day so they need to get a life.”
The hype referred to by Hunt is entirely created by the English media who see in Bentley a talented young footballer who they can start to build up. Why else would Hunt have been asked his opinion of Bentley in the first place?
Is Stephen Hunt right, or as the English media are starting to suggest is David Bentley the answer to England’s problems?
A quick look at Bentley’s career to date does not point to him being a ‘special player’. He made only two first team appearances at Arsenal before Arsene Wenger allowed him to go to Norwich on loan.
Suffering with various injuries Bentley played twenty-six games in that season for Norwich who were relegated to the Championship. On his return to Arsenal he requested a transfer and in August 2005 he moved to his current home at Blackburn Rovers initially on loan.
Now, after just under three seasons at Blackburn in which he has played 126 games, scoring 21 goals, he is being touted as Beckham’s immediate and long term replacement in the England team.
News stories are beginning to follow Bentley around:
“Chelsea are set to make a £10m summer swoop for Blackburn winger David Bentley”. — The People.
Bentley is a target for Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez who is willing to pay £12m for the England star – and include former Arsenal bad boy Jermaine Pennant in any deal. — The People.
David Bentley has the additional virtue of comfort on the right. Bentley’s time has certainly come. I especially admire the way that, like David Beckham, he exhibits no reluctance to use his weaker left foot. He also bears some imprint of an early apprenticeship to Dennis Bergkamp. — Patrick Barclay, the Telegraph.
It would appear that Beckham will be forced to hand over the reigns to another supremely talented right footer with the initials DB. Step forward, David Bentley. — Neil Jones, Soccerlens.
There is absolutely no doubt that David Bentley is a fine player. There are clearly issues with his personality and his continual whining about Arsenal and the way he was treated by them is beginning to grate with many people, not just Arsene Wenger. He is certainly not as media friendly as Beckham and I read recently that a former colleague of Bentley’s said that if he was made of chocolate he would eat himself. He certainly doesn’t under value his own ability:
“I’m here to take Beckham’s place and that’s what I’ll be trying to do,”
But is Bentley any more than just a good player? At this stage I would say ‘no he isn’t.’ He is twenty-three years old now and unlikely to get that much better. He can cross a ball well and he can deliver a decent set piece. However, his record of 21 goals in 126 games and only 24 assists in the same period hardly make him prolific. He is not quick and cannot inject the much needed pace to an England side so desperately lacking in that area.
Bentley is being built up for a fall by the English media who are desperate for a star to replace Beckham. It was going to be Shaun Wright-Phillips but after a few poor performances he was dropped by Chelsea, England and the media. The same has happened to Aaron Lennon. Now it is Bentley’s turn.
Two or three poor performances or two or three press conferences where Bentley doesn’t come over too well and he will be dropped like a stone as the saviour of English football and will be attacked by all sections of the media.
I am in no way criticising David Bentley and I hope he has continued success. I am just worried that the expectations beginning to be placed on his shoulders are far too great for the ability he possesses.
Why do we have to build up expectations about individuals and the national side to be so much greater than current and past results suggest we should? Bentley is good, but he is not world class.
It is important that we all remember what Stephen Hunt said, he is not bloody Maradona. We should also remember that he is not bloody David Beckham either.
Graham Fisher writes at Views of a fan. Article originally written for Soccer News.