Premier League Career: Ipswich Town (2001-2002), Charlton Athletic (2005-2007), Tottenham Hotspur (2007-2009), Sunderland (2009-2011), Aston Villa (2011-2013, 2014), Fulham (2013-2014)
In February 2018, Darren Bent will turn 34. His experience will come in handy for his current club, Derby County in the second half of the SkyBet Championship season as they look to try and end their Premier League exile.
Bent has already played for six sides in the Premier League and his form at a number of these teams earned him England recognition on 12 occasions, scoring four times for the Three Lions. When he was in peak form, there were few better strikers in the land than Darren Bent.
After considering a possible career in athletics, Darren decided to go down the football route and began at Ipswich Town, joining their youth system at the age of 14. In 2001, he made his Premier League debut for The Tractor Boys in a 2-1 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers. Just 17 at the time, Bent got a brief taste of Premier League life before Ipswich’s 2002 relegation, appearing seven times and even scoring a winning goal against Middlesbrough in April.
His exceptional development continued at Ipswich, improving his goalscoring tallies with every passing season. Their failure to escape the First Division though led to him seeking his future away from Suffolk and it was Charlton Athletic who signed him in the summer of 2005, paying £2.5 million for his services. Bent took to his new surroundings like a duck to water. He scored in his first four appearances as Charlton beat Sunderland, Wigan Athletic, Middlesbrough and Birmingham City to sit joint-top in the table. His excellent beginning also won him the Premier League Player of the Month award for August 2005. Charlton’s form dipped dramatically afterwards and they finished only 13th but Bent’s didn’t. He was the highest English scorer in the division with 18 goals and was only outscored by Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2005-2006. He was desperately unlucky to miss out on England’s 2006 World Cup squad, with Sven-Goran Eriksson bizarrely picking the untried Theo Walcott instead.
He added another 13 goals in 2006-2007 but Alan Curbishley had gone as manager and three managers that season said it all about how life went at The Valley after his departure. The Addicks were relegated at the end of the season. Charlton knew they had to sell Bent following their Premier League demise. West Ham United had a bid accepted but the move was turned down by the player. Instead, he moved to Tottenham Hotspur for £16.5 million.
Whilst his Charlton stint on a personal basis was a qualified success, life proved much tougher in the capital. He only managed eight goals in his first full season at White Hart Lane and was an unused substitute in the 2008 League Cup final win over Chelsea. With Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe also available on the striking roster, Bent found it difficult to establish himself. When they all left, Bent became the main forward for the 2008-2009 campaign and was their top scorer in the Premier League with 12 goals in 33 matches. However, Harry Redknapp was not a fan of the player when he succeeded Juande Ramos.
In a game at home to Portsmouth in January 2009 and with the score at 1-1, Bent put a header wide of the post when he really should have scored. Redknapp said afterwards: “You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one.”
Feeling unloved at Tottenham, Darren moved to Sunderland in August 2010 for £16.5 million despite some frustrating delays in the negotiations between the clubs. 2009-2010 would be his best campaign. Bent’s goals were valuable to keeping the Wearsiders away from the relegation battle. In a struggling side, he scored 24 times, incredibly 50% of their Premier League total for the season. Among the highlights were a hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers, a winning goal at home to Liverpool FC which struck a beach ball on its way in and two goals in a home victory against former club Tottenham Hotspur in April.
He scored another eight times in the first 20 matches of the 2010-2011 season, including a double at Anfield to earn a point and a stoppage-time penalty to beat Manchester City. However, he surprisingly left the club in January 2011 after submitting a transfer request to force a move through to Aston Villa. Villa paid Sunderland £18 million, potentially rising to £24 million with add-ons to secure the services of the player. He made a brilliant start to his Villa career, scoring a second winner for the season against Manchester City and two goals in a 2-1 away success at Arsenal in May. Despite only joining the Villans in January, he ended as the club’s joint-top scorer with Ashley Young on nine goals apiece.
In 2011-2012, he became the 21st player in Premier League history to reach the milestone of 100 goals in the competition after scoring an equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers in February. Three weeks later, he ruptured ankle ligaments at Wigan Athletic which ended his campaign and lost him a decent opportunity of making the EURO 2012 England squad. Nevertheless, he still finished as Aston Villa’s top goalscorer with 10 goals.
Christian Benteke’s arrival in the summer of 2012 pushed Bent down the pecking order at Villa Park, as new manager Paul Lambert preferred a partnership of Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor in attack. Despite being named the club’s interim vice-captain, he only featured 16 times and moved to Fulham on-loan for the 2013-2014 campaign. He scored a late winner against Stoke in October 2013 and also struck a late equaliser to earn a creditable point at Old Trafford in February 2014. However, his spell at Fulham was disappointing as they were relegated to the Championship. He returned to Aston Villa that summer and sporadically featured seven further times before dropping down to the second tier, first for a brief loan spell with Brighton & Hove Albion and then joining Derby County permanently in the summer of 2015.
Bent has scored 22 league goals for The Rams but a torn hamstring in pre-season has meant he hasn’t figured yet this season for Gary Rowett’s side. He will be hoping to make a contribution to their promotion push in the second half of the campaign.
A sharp shooter and combative player to face upto, Darren Bent has made a career out of scoring goals and he has done it very well throughout his time in the Premier League.