Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bent out of Shape by Stage Fright as Charlton Ace Falters

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bent out of Shape by Stage Fright as Charlton Ace Falters

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

AS they gazed out from the team coach as a storm of white stones crashed from the Liverpool sky over Anfield late last night, what were Darren Bent and Michael Carrick thinking? That at the end of the storm, there'd be a golden German sky?

Or that this was hail and farewell to their World Cup dreams?

You cannot envy them their two-month wait now because when given one final opportunity last night to dazzle Sven-Goran Eriksson and give him absolutely no excuse to leave them out of the final 23, neither achieved their objective.

And how surprising was that? When you've had a superb season but suddenly feel you're being forced to encapsulate it all in just 45 or 90 minutes against a bunch of streetwise Uruguayans, the pressure to deliver was always likely to be overbearing.

What they do not know, of course, is just how much store Eriksson will have placed on last night's action alone.

It can only be a hunch since Eriksson never does anything but lionise his players. But his praise for Bent was so faint - "He played better in the second half and he was unlucky. It's the first time he has played and it is never easy" - that it was hard to believe that should he take just four strikers to Germany, the Charlton man will be one of them.

Carrick? Well, he played impressively enough to make you wonder why he has not been given an opportunity to stake his claim to be Eriksson's holding midfielder since the American tour last summer. But whether his more exotic interpretation of the role is likely to win the Swede's vote over his Spurs pal Ledley King's more prosaic approach in front of the back four remains open to doubt.

Bent (below) felt he'd had "a steady debut" while Carrick insisted: "I made the most of my chance." The good thing about these two London contenders is that you sense they don't really believe that they've done enough yet to start packing the lederhosen.

As Bent shrugged: "All I can do now is keep on concentrating on myself and do my best to knock them in for Charlton until the end of the season."

It is possible he will still make the cut because Eriksson has mulled over taking five strikers, in which case both he and Jermain Defoe would get the nod. …

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