Plenty to prove

David Bentley... making his name with Blackburn.-AP

David Bentley’s switch to Rovers, via a loan spell at Norwich, has paid off with international recognition coming soon after he established himself at the club, writes Andy Hampson.

David Bentley is an exciting attacking midfield talent now making his name with Barclays Premier League Blackburn after failing to make the breakthrough at Arsenal. He gained a reputation for being flashy and outspoken when rated as one of the Gunners’ most promising youngsters and recognised the need to add substance to the hype.

His switch to Rovers, via a loan spell at Norwich, has paid off with international recognition coming soon after he established himself at the club. There has been controversy along the way, however, and Bentley still has much to prove.

Bentley, the son of an RAF serviceman whose postings took the family all over the world, was a precocious footballing talent and joined Arsenal at the age of 12.

He signed full-time when he left school and, after playing for all England’s age-group sides, was given a first-team debut by Arsene Wenger at 17, in an FA Cup tie against Oxford in 2003. It was his only appearance that season but he was given a handful of chances in the following campaign.

The youngster scored his first goal for the club against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup with an audacious lob, a strike that earned him comparisons with Gunners’ Dutch legend Dennis Bergkamp.

Despite the accolades, progress did not occur as quickly as Bentley envisaged or wanted. He agitated for a move and after initially being refused, managed to get a loan move to Norwich City in 2004-05.

It brought him the first-team chances he craved but, in a struggling side heading out of the Barclays English Premier League, he did not make a huge impact. There were some impressive performances but the move did more to enhance Bentley’s reputation as a cocksure, occasional mischief-maker and he also fell out with manager Nigel Worthington.

Nevertheless, Bentley felt his game benefited from the move and when he returned to Arsenal, he had no intention of biding his time and waiting his turn. He requested a permanent move.

Initially he was allowed to join Mark Hughes’ Blackburn on loan in the summer of 2005 and the deal was made permanent five months later.

Since then he has made considerable progress, although it has not exactly been steady. He had a poor relationship with former England Under-21 manager Peter Taylor and was dropped by him because of his attitude. He returned to the set-up when Stuart Pearce took charge but pulled out of the European Under-21 Championship last summer citing fatigue.

Pearce questioned his commitment to the international cause after that but fortunately decent form for Blackburn earned him a senior call-up.

Bentley is engaged to long-time girlfriend Kimberley Mills, a hairdresser.

Bentley’s time at Norwich is unfortunately best remembered for one particular misdemeanour during training. At the time Tetley’s were running a popular beer commercial in which English comedian Peter Kay, at a football training session, booted the ball as hard as he could out of the ground and into someone’s garden, shouting “Ave it!” as he did.

Bentley thought it would be funny to reprise Kay’s role in a Norwich session. Worthington, however, did not share the joke and dropped him for two matches.

Bentley landed himself in further trouble while at Norwich when he got lost on the way to Carrow Road. He ended up in Ipswich and his BMW was clocked speeding as he attempted to rectify the error.

His response after being fined and banned did him no favours either. “That car was too fast for me, but I’ll be all right now, I’ve bought a 4x4 — it’ll only do 105,” he said. These days he drives to training at Blackburn in a silver Audi.

FACTFILE Name: David Bentley Position: Midfielder Club: Blackburn DOB: 27/08/1984 England caps: 2 England goals: 0 England debut: v Israel, September 2007 Moment to remember

Filling in up front, Bentley produced the performance of his career as he scored a superb hat-trick in a remarkable 4-3 win over Manchester United in February 2006. It completed Rovers’ first double over United in living memory.

Moment to forget

Bentley’s England debut should have been a memorable occasion but the player instead was given a difficult time by the crowd. He was introduced as a substitute in a Euro 2008 qualifier against Israel at Wembley but was loudly jeered because of his previous refusal to play for the Under-21s.

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