Dear Premier League clubs, I’m sure you’re well aware by now that the summer transfer window has been dominated by strikers; Radamel Falcao moved to Monaco for a whopping £51million, Edinson Cavani joined PSG for a similar fee, Gonzalo Higuain switched to Serie A for £35million, whilst here in England, the backpages have been dominated all summer by the still on-going Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez transfer sagas.
But there is one striker who is somehow being left behind as Europe’s top hitmen all jump ship. Even amid Marouane Chamakh’s move to Crystal Palace, and Gary Hooper’s £5.5million deal that has brought him to Norwich, somehow, one of the Premier League’s most experienced and established front men is still rotting in the Aston Villa reserves.
I’m talking of course, about occasional England man Darren Bent. So far this summer, Newcastle, Fulham and Crystal Palace have all been linked to the Villa forward, but as of yet, no one has bitten the £6million cherry of the Birmingham outfit’s incredibly reasonable asking price. So here’s my plea, on behalf of Darren Bent, to every chairman, manager, director of football and transfer head honcho currently in the top flight, to try and find a potential suitor for DB’s services before transfer deadline day.
I may as well admit now that I have a personal interest in seeing Bent’s career change for the better. I’m a Charlton fan, the club where the 29 year old first gained notoriety for his 31 goals in 68 Premier League appearances whilst he was still living under the ‘promising English youngster’ tag. Being an Addick means many things; it means you never set your sights to high, it means you’re allowed to lavish yourself in mediocrity, be it at Premier League or Championship level, which in my opinion at least, puts you in good stead for real life. But from 2005 to 2007, before my boyhood club plummeted out of the top flight, being an Addick meant that my hopes of glory every Saturday afternoon rested on one man – the one, the only, Darren Bent.
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So now I have come clean about my emotional investment in the Villa striker, perhaps it’s understandable how I find his current situation with the Villians almost heart-wrenching, and why I’m now making a case for Darren Bent to anyone who is willing to listen.
There are few Premier League strikers, currently playing in England, elsewhere or long retired, that can claim over 100 top flight goals, but one of them is Darren Bent. Currently, the 29 year old sits as the Premiership’s 21st highest scorer, with 103 successful efforts on goal to date. That’s three more than Didier Drogba, two more than Matt Le Tissier, eight more than Nigerian goal machine Yakubu, and just twenty less than ‘the rich man’s Darren Bent’, Jermain Defoe, who for the record, is nearly two years Bent’s senior. Despite just making 13 sporadic appearances for the Three Lions throughout his career, producing four international goals along the way, it also makes the Aston Villa man the 13th highest scoring Englishman of the Premier League era.
On average, the striker’s goal tally works out at 11.5 goals per season, which by today’s standards, isn’t half bad for just 6million quid – Villa’s current price tag that Premier League outfits have unfairly judged as too costly.
And even at clubs where Benty hasn’t quite fitted in, he’s still managed to find the net. During his Tottenham days, the striker was often viewed in a pejorative sense by the White Hart Lane faithful; too lacking in quality on the ball, too inconsistent in front of goal, too generic and limited for the ever-snazzy Lilywhites. But in my opinion, the former Ipswich academy product was horrendously misunderstood in North London.
Tottenham made the fatal error of passing Darren Bent the ball, something that happened much less regularly during his days at the Valley. Darren Bent doesn’t need the ball to score a goal, that’s his beauty; rather than making use out of the playmaking and creative talents of Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane to whisp down the pitch in a series of one-twos, single touch passes and lobbed through balls in an incredibly aesthetic display, the 29 year old would much rather wait to pounce on the poor touch of an opposing defender, dribble at break neck speed into the penalty area and toe punt the ball into the bottom corner. It may be undistinguished, it may not be tica-taca, but it’s undeniably effective.
Despite Harry Redknapp’s misguided approach in how to utilise Bent, the England international still ended his White Hart Lane spell with 18 goals in 60 games; six more than Peter Crouch managed in two years, and three less than Roman Pavyluchenko found in four years.
After his hit and miss Tottenhman tenure, Bent moved to Sunderland, where he silenced his critics with 24 goals in his inaugural season for the Black Cats, a tally only bettered during the 2009/2010 Premier League campaign by Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba. But the 5 foot 11 forward (who on his day, can be useful in the air despite his unexceptional height) would only stay in Wearside for 18 months, netting 36 goals in 63 games for all competitions, before Aston Villa acquired his services for £18million plus £6million in add-ons in January 2011.
The next half a season would be vintage DB, with nine goals in his first 16 outings for the Villians, but admittedly, his form soon declined. Nine goals the following year was below Bent’s usual standards, and only the second season of his career at the time where he’d failed to hit double figures. Some suggested he was past it, or at least not cost-effective, and their argument was strengthened last term, where the Englishman became a regular bench-warmer under new Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert.
But there aren’t many strikers who could have kept Christian Benteke out of the first team of any Premier League outfit last season, with the big Belgian netting 18 times during his opening campaign in England. Even so, Bent, now playing understudy to last year’s surprise package in the top flight, who should be commended by accepting his new role without making a fuss, despite his seniority, contributed to the Villa cause with three goals in just eight domestic starts.
Which brings us to present day, with Bent currently thrown on the scrap heap for a pittance of what the Birmingham outfit bought him for just two and a half years ago. So perhaps I should summarise just exactly what you’ll be getting for your £6million if you are a potential Premier League suitor.
Firstly, you’ll be getting a striker who averages over ten goals a season, has only missed the double figures barrier for three campaigns of an 11 year senior career. You’ll be getting a man who is among the elite of Premier League forwards, with 103 top flight goals, a feat only currently bettered by 13 Englishman, who on the most part have well exceeded Bent’s 240 Premiership appearances. You’ll be getting a forward who doesn’t even need to be passed the ball to score goals, and more often than not creates his own chances out of completely nothing. You’ll be getting a 29 year old who has seen it all and done it all before, has never looked nervous in front of goal, and has been propping up sides at the foot of the Premier League table for the best part of a decade. You’ll be getting an occasional England international who will be desperate to impress Roy Hodgson ahead of the 2014 World Cup, with the tournament in Brazil being undoubtedly Bent’s last stand to claim a place in the Three Lions set up.
But whether you’re Manchester United or Hull, Everton or Palace, Swansea or Spurs, or any club in between, Darren Bent can provide you with the one thing you need most – guaranteed goals. Play him every game, and he’ll give you on average an 11 goal return, play him spasmodically, and he’ll still chip in a few here and there, play him in the cup, and he’ll still deliver, with a career record of 21 goals in 42 appearances from the FA Cup and League Cup combined.
So this is my plea to all Premier League clubs, that whilst Manchester City buy their forwards for £20million a piece, Monaco and PSG cough up £50million for front men as if it’s spare change on their dressing tables, and Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale are discussed in terms of fees ranging from £40million to £100million, remember that one of the most consistent centre-forwards the English top flight has ever seen, is available for just £6million this summer.
And in regards to Crystal Palace, Fulham and Newcastle, who have already been linked but are somehow balking at Bent’s current price-tag – just cough up the cash, and bring my beloved Darren Bent’s Aston Villa nightmare to an end.
Should Premier League clubs be snapping up Darren Bent?
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