Bent relishes proving the critics wrong

Darren Bent admits a burning desire to prove his critics wrong has fuelled his rise from World Cup reject to the focal point of England's attack.

Updated: June 02, 2011 10:55 IST
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Watford: Darren Bent admits a burning desire to prove his critics wrong has fuelled his rise from World Cup reject to the focal point of England's attack.

An underwhelming England debut against Uruguay back in 2006 meant Bent's next four international appearances were spread out over five seasons as first Sven Goran Eriksson and then Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello remained unsure of his value.

A widespread belief that he was a flat-track bully unable to score against the best opposition undermined his reputation.

And Bent's standing suffered a potentially shattering blow when his Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp publicly criticised a bad miss in a match against Portsmouth with the caustic comment that; "my missus Sandra could have scored that".

Redknapp's harsh assessment could have been the defining word on Bent's career, but he refused to let his confidence be dented and, after joining Sunderland several months later, he embarked on a free-scoring run that eventually persuaded Aston Villa to pay £18 million.

Bent's predatory instincts continued to shine at Villa and his previously moribund international career suddenly jolted back to life when he finally scored his first England goal in a victory over Switzerland in September.

The 26-year-old had been left out of Capello's provisional 30-man squad for the 2010 World Cup, having also missed the 2006 tournament, but his perseverance had finally paid off.

He scored again in a friendly against Denmark before bagging another in his first competitive international start against Wales in March and he goes into Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzterland at Wembley firmly established as a key figure in Capello's plans.

Asked if he felt he had proved a point, Bent said: "I'd like to think so. Before I got that first England goal a lot of people said; 'he's not good enough'"

"That's changed since then. Hopefully I can keep changing people's beliefs and make them see I can score goals."

"Harry is a well liked guy and people are interested in what he says. It was hard at the time but I just tried to get on with it."

"When I first left Spurs it was on my mind to do really well to show people. But after my first season at Sunderland I scored a lot of goals and that put it to bed. It's finished now."

"The criticism probably got to me when I was younger. When I was new to the whole England set-up it did affect me. Now I just try to take it with a pinch of salt."

"I always believed I would get another chance if I kept scoring."

Bent has always felt confident he could do a job for England given a regular run in the team, but he still doesn't believe he can afford to take his place for granted.

"I feel I am part of the set-up but I wouldn't say I feel like I am England's centre forward yet because there are so many top international strikers like Wayne Rooney in the squad," he said.

If patience has been a virtue for Bent, it is a lesson that his England teammate Joleon Lescott has also had to absorb.

Manchester City defender Lescott won his 13th cap as a substitute against Ghana in March.

But, with Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand available again, Lescott knows it is going to be hard to get back in the starting eleven this weekend.

Ferdinand and captain John Terry are likely to remain Capello's first-choice centre-backs for the immediate future, but neither are getting any younger and Lescott hopes City's participation in the Champions League next season will keep him in the mix with England.

"It will be hard," he said. "You are talking about two of the best players in the world."

"If it was easy to get in the team, we wouldn't be the force we are at international level."

"But I just want to apply myself well and stay in the Manchester City team next season."

"Playing in the Champions League can only bode well for me when I am called upon."

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