David Bentley had to issue a groveling apology today, surprisingly not to Tottenham Hotspur fans for his abysmal displays on the football pitch last season, but for being charged with drink driving after colliding with a lamp-post in the early hours of the morning. It’s obviously not the first time that Bentley has hit the post in his football career, but he usually has the decency to wait until he has a ball at his feet. In a statement released (and obviously written) by the club, Bentley whined:
I should like to apologise to my club and the supporters for my actions, which led to my car accident and my subsequent charge. It was wholly unacceptable and I fully appreciate that as a professional footballer I have a duty to behave in a reputable and responsible manner. I am thankful that nobody was injured in the accident. This has been a wake-up call for me both personally and professionally.
Although he describes the crash as a “wake-up call”, you have to wonder how many similar actions Bentley requires before he genuinely opens his eyes. After all the player has twice been banned for speeding in the past. In 2005 Bentley was banned for 56 days for speeding at 102mph, even though he had only just finished a 48-day ban for speeding at 120mph. In 2007 he was heavily criticised for telling MTV, "I live my life on the edge. I like driving too fast in my Ferrari." Well I suppose that it makes a change from parking his Porsche in a disabled bay. The only real shock about the latest example of appalling behaviour from a “professional” footballer is that a player as self-absorbed as Bentley drives a Porsche – and not a Bentley.
I suppose that the car crash is a suitable metaphor for his football career, which appears to have come to a grinding halt, as he has only started two of his club’s games since the turn of the year. His international career has also stalled with no caps since last August. Bentley’s arrest came just three days before Spurs’ first game of the season. He wasn’t exactly flavour of the month before this incident, but now he’s probably fallen behind Aaron Lennon, the kit man and Sandra Redknapp in the pecking order. Following Ledley King’s arrest last season for an alleged assault outside a Soho nightclub, manager Harry Redknapp vowed to stop his players drinking, "Footballers should dedicate their lives to playing. Footballers should not drink. You shouldn't put diesel in a Ferrari.” Despite the unfortunate analogy, “Readies” is unlikely to be best pleased by his player’s latest escapade and Bentley’s realisation of his responsibilities may well have dawned too late to save his Tottenham career.
Bentley has hardly enamoured himself to Spurs’ long-suffering supporters, who must be wondering what on earth he was thinking when he was out boozing at 3am. Perhaps he was drowning his sorrows, as he is nowhere near an England team that might just win the World Cup (just ask John Terry), but it’s certainly not a smart thing to do, when he should be knuckling down and trying to win his first team place back. Any dedication and determination appears to have been lost at the bottom of a bottle of lager. As a self-confessed Spurs fan, you would expect that Bentley would be idolised by their support, but the least they expect in return is a bit of graft. Instead, what they get is a total lack of responsibility, evidenced on a smaller scale only last week when Bentley’s reaction to being substituted in a pre-season friendly was to stroppily jog down the tunnel.
We have been here before. Bentley’s response to Spurs’ awful start to last season was to give an interview where he declared:
It’s been shocking. It’s been a bit shit. It’s been a difficult start, especially for me. I wasn’t enjoying it. It’s been difficult out on the pitch. We’ve not been together. We didn’t know where people were running, what people were doing.
Apart from the obvious retort that Bentley was part of that sequence of shameful under-performance, this interview was never going to endear him to his team mates or his manager. He might has well have urged the crowd to chant “you don’t know what you’re doing” to Juande Ramos, the manager at the time. To the surprise of no-one, except maybe David Bentley and his rampant ego, Ramos axed him from the 18 man squad for the next match. Spurs fans would be entitled to ask exactly what Bentley has been doing since he arrived at the club last summer. Apart from one sensational goal, he has achieved virtually nothing, except for exhibiting a series of increasingly stupid hairstyles. Ironically, one of these resembled the Action Man toy, even though he has spent months doing little more than warm the bench.
"Up, up and away"
Unfortunately this is a player who clearly believes his own hype a little too much. After his single moment of glory last season, when he volleyed a great goal against Arsenal in the North London derby, he declared, “I feel like superman. I could fly home” in a post-match interview of stunning triumphalism. Given that his team was still rock-bottom of the Premier League, many felt that Bentley should learn to walk before boasting of his ability to fly. The appropriate response would have been a small nod of satisfaction with the resolve to build on that sublime moment. That way he might have added to his goal tally; instead of scoring precisely zero more goals in the season.
Once hailed as the “new Beckham”, the former Arsenal trainee cuts a miserable figure at White Hart Lane these days. In a bid to emulate his hero (or maybe just to emphasise his apparent similarities to Becks), he embossed his boots with a DB7 slogan, though he is now even struggling for an opportunity to kick the ball. Indeed, the old David Beckham is still being picked for England, as Signor Capello has clearly decided that Bentley is all mouth. Bentley's explanation for slipping behind Beckham, Theo Walcott and Shaun Wright-Phillips had the familiar ring of a victim of circumstances beyond his control. It was all the fault of doomed Spurs manager Juande Ramos, who kept playing him out of position.
Nothing to do with Bentley being a bit of a tit? When on loan to Norwich, he decided that it would be great fun to emulate the Peter Kay ad by hoofing the ball into the air, shouting “Have it!” The manager was not amused at his training session being disrupted and promptly dropped him. Bentley evidently loves television, aping Soccer AM’s dance-off in a ridiculously camp dancing contest with then Blackburn team-mate, David Dunn, in the classy Squires nightclub in Preston. There he was again, acting like the village idiot, jumping up and down and gurning behind a Sky Sports reporter doing a live piece to camera. Given these performances, you have to laugh at Bentley’s response when his wife was asked to appear on a WAGs reality show, “My missus was asked to do it and I was like 'you ain't doing that'. It makes you, like, stupid, doesn't it?" Well, you would know, David.
"What time's University Challenge?"
Bentley’s most memorable moment last year came not on the football pitch, but on the roof of Red Bull’s London headquarters of all places. For some strange reason, his agent bet him that he could not kick a ball into a skip on the other side of Charing Cross Road. He had so little faith in his client’s ability that he wagered £15,000 on him missing, but Bentley launched the ball straight into the skip, which must have been all of 70 yards away. Apart from the size of the bet being another sickening example of footballers’ obscene wealth at a time when many people are struggling to pay their mortgages, it does make you wonder how the very same player could not hit the target when missing a penalty from all of 12 yards in the Carling Cup final.
Maybe the pressure got to him, having been saddled with a ludicrously over-inflated transfer fee of £15 million when he moved to Tottenham from Blackburn, though I suppose that it’s not his fault that English players seem to attract a large transfer premium. It would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so depressingly stupid. However, I suspect that few would complain at the pressures that come with a weekly salary of £50,000. Bentley is the embodiment of much that is wrong with many modern footballers – too much money and no class.
"You don't have to be mad to work here ... but it helps"
As for Arsenal, Bentley has done nothing but stick the knife into the club that developed him since he left. You’d think that he would be grateful to the club that provided the footballing education that allowed him to ply his trade so lucratively, albeit first at mid-table cloggers Blackburn and then at perennial under-achievers Tottenham, but apparently not. He eagerly told people that being at Blackburn had rekindled his love for the game, being a “great environment to work in, a great laugh every day”, whereas:
At Arsenal, it was all about statistics. I don't want a cross to be a statistic. Everything football should be wasn't happening at Arsenal. There was no banter. I lost my love for the game.
Oh, god … banter. Shut the fuck up about your precious “banter”, you rat-faced chav. Like his kindred spirit and fellow waster, Jermaine Pennant, he never tired of complaining about the foreign influence at Arsenal. There is an apocryphal tale that he turned up at training one day, wearing a special pair of boots that said “English and proud” on one and “So I’m never picked” on the other. Maybe his non-selection was more to do with the personal problems that he would later divulge, including a serious gambling addiction:
I was 14 when I first started going to a betting shop. I got carried away with it. As I started earning more money I really started getting heavily into it. You just get addicted. I was on everything, the horses, the dogs, online with poker, betting on bingo, all sorts ... I'd wake up in the morning and the first thing I thought was to have a bet, anything from 50 to 100 bets a day.
This lack of commitment was highlighted to the nation, when he dropped out of the England Under-21 squad at the last minute before the European Championships in 2007, due to “fatigue”. His withdrawal was so late that manager Stuart Pearce was not allowed to replace him. It’s truly ironic that he decided not to play for the Under 21s, as he was really, really tired and was saving himself for future matches, given that he has spent half a season doing bugger all. Bentley said that it was hugely important for him to play for England, but Pearce drily replied, “It means everything to play for England – when it suits”. Bentley also had previous here with the former manager, Peter Taylor, dropping him from the squad for disciplinary reasons. Yet again Bentley was forgiven when Fabio Capello selected him for his first full England squad, but he was plainly less than convinced by the player’s level of commitment, as he has been conspicuous by his absence ever since.
"Yeah, I like a bet"
This has not been a great time for David Bentley. A few weeks ago he was punched in the face by a stranger as he ate in a restaurant with his fiancée. His agent said that, “a guy walked over and started talking gibberish to him, then he just took a swing and punched him”. Gibberish? Bentley must be used to that, playing under Harry Redknapp. In fact, I wonder whether police have ascertained Redknapp’s whereabouts on the night in question, given that he has been trying to get rid of Bentley ever since he arrived at the club.
Part of me almost feels sorry for David Bentley, following his dramatic fall from grace, but then I remember the huge wage he is picking up for doing little more than sitting on a bench - and wrapping his Porsche around lamp-posts. Then I think that his charge sheet should not be restricted to driving under the influence, but should maybe also cover the charge of being a gigantic twat.