Darren Bent must be wondering what he has to do to get himself into the squad. Seven goals in the first eight Premier League games, the most recent against Man United especially showing just how confident and effective he is at the moment.
Thus far it has been a foolish man who has criticised Fabio Capello, with his continued selection of Emile Heskey amid much media scepticism vindicated by each brilliant England performance by Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.
Yet most previous calls to replace Heskey have suggested any of Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and even Owen to replace Villa’s big forward. The main reason why Capello has been right to persist with Heskey ahead of these three, is that while all excellent forwards in their own right, and far more potent goalscorers than Heskey, none of them can offer what Heskey offers to the team.
Capello evidently values Heskey’s strength, work rate, and most importantly discipline. Heskey can be trusted to be where his manager asks him to be; offering himself as a central pillar around which the team’s most talented players can operate. His limitations though are obvious to anyone who has ever winced as a poor first touch and average finishing have seen a good chance go begging.
None of this is to suggest that Heskey’s lack of goalscoring prowess is actually a problem for the current England team. Yet with England’s qualification already assured it seems like madness to not give a chance to a man who offers much of what Heskey offers, while also adding the potential for a cutting edge. Bent could offer an especially important role as a replacement for Heskey is Plan A isn’t quite doing the business.
Time spent up front on his own while at Charlton showed just how effective Bent is at holding the ball up, chasing lost causes into the corner and showing remarkable positional discipline to always occupy the oppositions defence. The fact that Bent is also an extremely useful goalscorer does not diminish the quality of his link-up play which has been extremely obvious this season in his working relationship with Kenwyne Jones and Andy Reid.
As mentioned above his combination of skills could be especially useful off the bench, providing enough for him to be more help than hindrance for Rooney while also offering the pace, finishing, and shoulder of the last defender threat to help turn games around.
While Plan A is working so magnificently there seems no reason to ditch Heskey, despite his recent poor form. Yet there seems equally little reason for Darren Bent to not be in the squad. He offers a different prospect to Defoe, and with Carlton Cole (himself excellent this season) a more direct replacement for Heskey, Bent deserves the chance to replace Peter Crouch as the ‘something a little different’ option to throw stubborn opposition.