Darren Bent to Sunderland – Goodbye and Good Luck

Darren’s Bent’s transfer to Sunderland for £10m plus add-ons means we can recoup most of the cash Charlton trousered and have now squandered. His fee was never as high as the often quoted £16.5m and Levy softened the blow with easy payments over three years. So not a bad deal in the end and I wish him well; a decent player and by all accounts a decent bloke too.

You could never tell how Bent was feeling. Happy or sad, he habitually wore a similar fixed expression, the only clue being a slight movement of the eyebrows, up for ‘goal!’ and down for, well, let’s be honest, they were down for a lot of the time. Yet this mask failed to hide his unease at being a Tottenham player. Despite being our top goalscorer, he seldom looked the part and never settled.

His recent outburst on Twitter was rather endearing. In this bland world of media-managed comments and interviews, here was a guy expressing an opinion. No wonder he was hacked off, as delays jeopardised his transfer. It revealed how much he wanted to get away.

Footballers are extremely well recompensed for the inconvenience of criticism from the media and from fans, but being dragged off a plane at the last moment, in front of your team mates, could not have been a pleasant experience for him. Yet this was nothing in comparison with Harry’s famous comment about his headed miss, the one that Sandra could have put away.

In this morning’s papers Bent says this comment hurt at the time and still does, and that he never felt valued by his manager. Remember that Bent invested considerably in our club, turning down a substantially larger offer from West Ham to join us under Martin Jol. It reveals another side of Redknapp, darker than the avuncular father figure image that he so assiduously cultivates. No friendly arm around the shoulder here, but stark rejection. Some Portsmouth players have commented on this same feature. If Harry makes it clear that you are unwanted, that’s a cold place to be.

It also demonstrates that Bent is one of those players for whom confidence matters hugely. We rarely saw him at his best. For all the occasions when he looked sharp in front of goal, these were outweighed by feeble misses, not wide so much but the certainty that he would score was missing in his glazed expression. He waited for something to happen instead of making it so, in the same way that playing up front he hung back rather than attacked the ball. In his head he needed to give himself that extra fraction of a second, but all he did was allow defenders to time and again get in first. He left too great a gap between himself and the midfield, therefore the link-up play constantly foundered.

Neither goalscorer nor target-man, there’s no place at the club for him. I feel odd in dismissing our top goalscorer but the move is right, for him and us. He will do better at Sunderland, a bigger fish in a smaller pond. With less of a burden on his shoulders, it will be nice to see him a crack a smile.

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