Yes, he does still exist. Vincent Ralph asks if he is the only one to have forgotten the former England striker?
Footballers don’t usually slip from my memory. Even those long-gone are there somewhere, in the part of my brain replaying the highlights of seasons past.
But until today, one player had stopped existing to me. And when I realised I had completely forgotten about him, I was shocked. Because this isn’t an obscure player for a team whose results I only sporadically glance at; this was one of the Premier League’s top strikers.
Or at least…he used to be.
If you had told me before the season began that Aston Villa would be pulled into a relegation fight and, despite crying out for goals and points aplenty, not called on Bent, I wouldn’t have believed you. No one would have.
Bent was Villa’s go-to man for goals. Just as he has been for every club he has played for. Perhaps with the exception of Tottenham, but the guy’s had a hard enough season as it is – we don’t need to remind him of that.
Two goals in 15 appearances this season – of which only seven have been starts – says it all. The man who was once hailed by some as the best English striker in the Premier League is now not even a memory; or at least not one that doesn’t take a considerable amount of straining to recollect.
It wasn’t always this way. For his first club Ipswich Town he bagged 55 goals in 141 appearances; before a move to Charlton Athletic saw 38 goals in two seasons – and that fateful move to White Hart Lane.
And yet he still scored 24 times in two seasons for the Lillywhites, which perhaps wasn’t as many as Harry Redknapp’s wife Sandra would have scored – at least if you believe what the then-manager said at the time – but it didn’t deserve the level of criticism Bent received.
A move to Sunderland rejuvenated him – a fact proven by the 25 goals in his debut season for the Black Cats. And while he began the following campaign in similar fashion, a January switch to Aston Villa followed.
Like a great relationship turned sour, Bent did for Villa what he did for everyone else – found the net – until, well, he stopped.
Last season’s return of nine league goals in 22 appearances spoke of a player on the wane; and this season, that player has gone from being in decline to being missing.
Injuries have played their part, both this season and last; as has the form of Christian Benteke. But the truth is Bent is now only a Villa player in name. They have survived their relegation battle without him, which would have been inexplicable a few years ago.
Next season he will hope to prove he hasn’t lost what once came to him with ease. He won’t be proving that at Villa Park; but surely someone will take a punt, provided they haven’t forgotten about him, too.
Where do you think Bent will be playing next season? And will he rediscover his once-fine-form in the future?
image: © wonker