It is hard not to feel sorry for David Bentley. Actually let me try that again. It is hard to feel sorry for David Bentley. He was born with a remarkable talent and yet it appears to have been swept to the winds.
Of course injuries have played a part in his decline, but if you look at how great players cope (take Rosicky for example) by staying with a club, keeping their heads down, and just working through it, some of the blame must be taken by the man himself.
He could have been great, indeed he could have been great for Arsenal, but as it was he started five games, was a sub in four and scored one goal (counting all competitions). Now, as I write this, he is 29 and his career is in terminal decline, with him signed, it seems, with no one.
Perhaps he doesn’t notice what might have been. Perhaps he blames his employers for not recognising his talent. But then many of us have dumb employers at different times in our lives, and some of us move on and do one hell of a lot better next time.
Bentley was born in Peterborough, started playing at Wormley FC and came to Arsenal aged 13. He played as a centre forward, a number 10, central midfield and wide midfield. He was an under 21 international too.
In September 2001 he became a professional and in May 2004 he actually played for Arsenal in the Premiership. It was his one start in the league.
He had actually played his first game in January 2003, as a sub in the FA Cup but after that season he went on loan to Norwich who were relegated on the last day of his season there.
By the summer of 2005 he had put in a transfer request, as he admitted he was fighting to overcome a serious gambling habit. But there were no takers at his salary, and with his outspoken approach to football, so he went to Blackburn
|Norwich City loan
|Blackburn Rovers loan
|Birmingham City loan
|West Ham United loan
|FC Rostov loan
|Blackburn Rovers loan
in January 2006, and immediately scored a hat trick for them. It looked like his problems were over.
On 27 February 2007 he signed a new contract which made Mark Hughes (then Blackburn manager) say, Bentley was “a great talent with a big future”.
But it was never going to be enough for Bentley to play in a Lancashire town for a club with limited support (much of the time the club played with the upper tier of one stand shut, because of the smallness of the crowds), and in the summer of 2008 Bentley started talking about the need to join a bigger club. Unfortunately he went instead to Tottenham.
The transfer took place on 31 July 2008 Tottenham paying £15m plus £2m performance fees. Of this £7m went back to Arsenal as part of the deal that Blackburn had signed with Arsenal when they bought him.
He was utterly full of himself when he scored what we must all agree was a truly remarkable goal in the 4-4 draw between Arsenal and Tottenham on 29 October 2008 but that was the high point. By June 2009 he was talking again to other clubs. Greener grass, anything is better… it seems to be always the same. By 2011 Tottenham were trying to recoup some of their money by loaning him out again.
On September 2012 he went on loan for FC Rostov in Russian, but an injury there, as with injuries in earlier games elsewhere, cut his time short and attempts by other clubs to sign him (for example QPR) failed amidst talk of seriously high wage demands.
On 15 February 2013 he went back to Blackburn on loan and played in the FA Cup fifth round at Arsenal. On 7 June 2013 he was released by Tottenham. And there the story goes cold, although I am sure he will pop up somewhere else.