Bent continues to mature nicely
LIKE a top quality wine or cheese, Darren Bent is maturing nicely, writes Derek Davis.The Ipswich Town striker is looking for a goal today against Sheffield United to mark his 19th birthday and to continue his footballing education.
LIKE a top quality wine or cheese, Darren Bent is maturing nicely, writes Derek Davis.
The Ipswich Town striker is looking for a goal today against Sheffield United to mark his 19th birthday and to continue his footballing education.
Ever since he made his debut as a 17-year-old in the UEFA Cup in Helsingborg Bent has grown into the role superbly well. His first senior goal was at Newcastle in the Worthington Cup but he has added another dozen to his tally since then.
He has prompted Town's resurgence this season with 11 goals and handled the pressure well but admits he still has a lot to learn.
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He said: "I have had to mature quickly because I have been with the first team since I was 17 and football is a tough game so you have to look after yourself. I'm still growing and building my strength so I can handle myself physically.
"As I have matured as a player I have also had to learn how to use my pace effectively. When I was younger I just used it for the sake of using it. But the coaches have shown me how to use it in areas which will hurt people and I try to do that."
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Bent has picked up many tips from the old sages like Marcus Bent, and before him Marcus Stewart, and is now picking the brain of manager Joe Royle, himself a handy striker for clubs and country. Bent said: "Every day Joe gives me one bit of advice about being a striker and what he did in his day so I can take what he says and add to my game."
After making his debut in the UEFA Cup and then playing as a regular in the Premiership you could be easily forgiven for thinking he has been around for ages.
But Bent can remember as a mere 16-year-old watching Marcus Stewart firing in the goals that helped Town win a play-off place and then Premiership promotion and wants to emulate his former hero.
"I'm quite a young pro so I'm still learning and trying to take what I learnt in the Premiership into this season. This is my first full season and it is great to be playing in crunch games and I can remember what Marcus and the like did when we were promoted last time. It is exciting to be involved now and I hope we can do as they did."
Like his fellow teenager Darren Ambrose, Bent is itching to get off the bench and play as big a part as he can but he has also learned the art of patience in his 'old' age. He added: "I just love playing, Darren Ambrose and I are always out on the training pitch and have to be dragged in. I know why the Gaffer is keeping me on the bench to come off and I can understand that. All I can do is keep working and doing my best."
Bent celebrated his 19th birthday on Thursday with some terrific presents but would like nothing more than to snatch his 12th goal of the season at Portman Road today and edge nearer his 15-goal target.
Joe Royle has included Alun Armstrong in his 17-man squad and will make changes in the starting line-up from the side which played below their best at Bradford. He is keeping things close to his chest but Pablo Counago will probably pay the price with Darren Bent starting, while the Blues boss may think it is time to plunge in Darren Ambrose as a starter in place of Jermaine Wright. Matt Richards could well come off the bench reasonably early in preparation for Hermann Hreidarsson's upcoming three-match ban.
Martijn Reuser failed to recover from an abductor injury while Richard Naylor is struggling with a knee problem.
Those two, plus Finidi George and John McGreal, are pencilled in for Town's rearranged reserve team game against Arsenal which will now be played at Portman Road on Wednesday.
Fresh from a three-day sunshine break in La Manga, the Blades will have Robert Page back after a one-game ban.
Both teams saw their unbeaten league runs end last Saturday, Sheffield had gone 10 and Town eight.
Ipswich Town: Marshall, Wilnis, Hreidarsson, Holland, Gaardsoe, Makin, Magilton, Wright, Miller, M Bent, D Bent, Counago, Pullen, Ambrose, Richards and Abidallah.
Sheffield United: Kenny, Quinn, Jagielka, Murphy, Page, Tonge, McCall, Brown, Windass, Mooney, Ndlovu, Quinn, Edghill, Allison, Kabba, Peschisolido, Cas, Yates and Thompson.
Referee: Richard Beeby (Northampton).