The internet needs another piece about football right now about as much as footballers getting paid over 50,000 pounds a week need our sympathy. Still, I can’t stop myself from offering a cyber-hug to Sunderland’s Darren Bent today following his omission from England’s world cup team for the second tournament in a row.
Whilst I have a partisan interest in Bent’s fortunes as a Sunderland fan, his non-selection does seem a tad unfair. Even allowing for the fact that I possess precious little nous when it comes to selecting winning football teams and that style of play of the ensemble is a huge factor in the potency of even the best players, not even having your country’s second highest scorer on the bench seems a bit silly.
It’s also an interesting counterpoint to the idea that people who work hard and deliver the goods will be rewarded. As in any workplace, even world class athletes are at the mercy of their employers. It seems that Bent just did not fit in Mr Capello’s plans.
Football fans in the north-east have seen this kind of thing before. In the late fifties one Brian Howard Clough scored 151 goals in 274 games playing for Middlesbrough and Sunderland and yet played only twice for England. More recently (Super) Kevin Phillips was the Premier League’s top scorer in 1999-2000, becoming the only Englishman to win the European Golden Boot. In exchange he played just eight times in an England shirt, coming off the bench as a substitute in each game. I’m not suggesting there is any kind of conspiracy at hand here, but Sunderland fans might be forgiven for feeling a little paranoid from time to time.
Refreshingly Bent himself has been remarkably gracious about the whole affair, in public at least. Recognising that making any kind of a living playing the game you love is a blessing in itself is one of the reasons that Mackems have taken to Bent with the same fervour they embraced Phillips – that and that fact that we’d be shite without him. So whilst England and Mr Capello may not have recognised you Darren, and whilst it’s no consolation, I’d like to offer a tip of my red and white bobble hat and a spin of my wooden clacker rattle in gratitude for switching the Stadium of Light back on.