Bentley Won't Hear the Jeers; Controlling Interest: David Bentley Puts on the Style

Article excerpt


BOOED at Wembley, jeered at the Emirates. David Bentley is London'shottest pantomime villain. Is this what he meant about stepping into the bootsof David Beckham? Does he plan to trace Beckham's popularity curve from theflash lad they love to hate to national treasure? This was Bentley's firstreturn to Arsenal since becoming a full England international and anothersignificant step on his personal road to redemption.

Those Gooners who pay close attention to these things recall his departure fromthe club, grumbling about the lack of first-team opportunities and sounding alittle bitter.

So when Blackburn supporters stood to cheer him as he made his way to thecorner flag to deliver another set piece, the home fans booed him. Then theycheered when he miscued an ambitious volley from 20 yards and skewed it wide.

True, it was a bit half-hearted.

It wasn't of Ashley Cole proportions.

But here was Bentley polarising opinion again. He has a knack for it.

Just over four years ago, he was scoring his first goal in senior football forArsenal at Highbury. It was a delicious chip against Middlesbrough in the FACup and it had everyone talking about England's very own Dennis Bergkamp.

The quick appreciation, invention and execution inspired the comparison and thecrowd inserted his name into their favourite Bergkamp song.

Bentley's game is still decorated with little flashes copied from the Bergkamprepertoire during his days in the Arsenal camp. He joined the club at the ageof 12 and was invited to train with Arsene Wenger's first team at 16.

Technique has never been an issue for a player born in Peterborough, brought upin Hertfordshire and who made his debut for the Gunners at 18.

Last night, his cross of St George boots initialised DBsomething else he shares with Becksproduced some sublime touches and his usual precision delivery from open playand dead-ball situations.

Steven Reid missed the target from a beautiful Bentley centre early in the gameand a flick with the outside of the foot released Brett Emerton down the rightin the build-up to another chance, this time squandered by Benni McCarthy. …