In-form Bent is worth his weight in goals

World Cup omission 'hurt like hell' but finally scoring for England has lifted the Sunderland hitman who has Montenegro in his sights

There will be a nervous couple of days for Darren Bent until Fabio Capello names England's team to play Montenegro at Wembley on Tuesday night, but then he is used to that. Twice in the past the wait has been to discover whether he is going to the World Cup; bad news each time. On a regular basis there is the uncertainty of being alerted that he is in a provisional England squad of some three dozen and then longing for the positive text offering a place in the 23. Even then, once in the squad, he has more often than not been left on the bench or in the stands to watch Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and others looking for goals.

What it all adds up to is just two starts and five cameos as a substitute in the five years since he was called up to replace the injured Crouch for a friendly away to Denmark in August 2005. The first six occasions he actually made it on to the pitch passed without a goal, which is never encouraging for a striker, until finally, in Switzerland last month, he did what he does best with two minutes to play, sprinting on to Ashley Cole's pass and slotting the ball in.

"It was a big, big weight off my shoulders to be honest," he admitted at England's luxurious hotel in Watford on Friday. "At some stages I felt like it was never going to come but once the chance came I was confident enough to take it and hopefully there'll be more."

Now, his confidence fired up, he is in such a vein of form and goalscoring – eight goals for Sunderland this season – that it will be a disappointment not to start on Tuesday, however much he is trying to play down expectations. "Everyone wants to play for their country but I can't take it as a gimme. Crouchy's record for England is second to none, 20 goals in 40 games. People will look at him and expect him to start. If I get picked again, I'd be delighted." He may be doing himself down there, for at the World Cup Capello largely ignored Crouch, who has not started for England since a warm-up game against Mexico in May.

Bent's main quality is his movement in behind a defence, "attacking the spaces" as he puts it, which often leads to him being caught offside but leaves him in a threatening position if the right ball is played to him at the right time. Team-mates such as Danny Murphy at Charlton and Steed Malbranque at Sunderland developed that ability to the team's benefit, and Rooney, if he can rediscover some form, or Steven Gerrard could develop an equally profitable partnership by making best use of Bent's pace.

If nothing else, a start on Tuesday would erase some of the doubts placed in his mind by his rather off-hand treatment, and especially being dropped from the provisional squad last summer. Four years earlier, he admits, he was very much an outsider, despite having scored 22 goals for Charlton. This time it hurt, even if the writing was on the changing-room wall when he was substituted at half-time in the second warm-up game, against Japan in Austria.

"You just sit in the changing room when the second half is going on thinking: 'What could I have done better and what have I done well?' That game was a bit like a trial. I was 50-50 at the time but when he [Capello] phoned me, it was hard to take. I went back to my mum's house and spent a lot of time with my family and close friends. I just tried to get back to normal. There was not much I could do to vent my anger and frustration at not going to a World Cup. I just tried to put it behind me and move on. It was a blow but what helped me was that I had missed out four years earlier so I half-knew how to deal with it. But it did hurt like hell."

Sunderland's manager Steve Bruce, the chairman Niall Quinn and even the club's owner Ellis Short all spoke encouragingly to him and have been delighted at his response. A total of 29 goals in 45 games for the club is an even better ratio than at Ipswich, Charlton or Tottenham, giving him overall figures of 122 League goals in less than 300 games. White Hart Lane was the one place he was unconvincing, one miss against Portsmouth causing the manager Harry Redknapp to claim unsympathetically that "my missus could have scored that". Even then, he finished as Spurs' leading scorer, before heading for the North-east, tweeting his frustration at Tottenham's chairman Daniel Levy for supposedly holding up the move.

These days his mantra is reflected in a tattoo reading KTF (Keep The Faith) and yesterday's tweets were suitably positive, predicting a full cap for his Sunderland team-mate Jordan Henderson and commending a good England training session. What Capello has to consider after the next couple of them today and tomorrow is the most effective line-up against a Montenegro side who, like England, have a 100 per cent record so far.

Phil Jagielka's injury has eased one complication, allowing Rio Ferdinand to come back into defence – where he should be restored as captain – in the same 4-4-1-1 formation that earned victory in Switzerland. Neither of the wide players, Theo Walcott or James Milner, are available so Adam Johnson and Joe Cole or Ashley Young can fill those positions, with Gerrard and Gareth Barry in between them, and Bent just ahead of Rooney.

Having Gerrard in that slightly deeper role gives a solidity to the midfield that is sometimes missing when Michael Carrick is in there, and as long as Rooney helps out, England need not be outnumbered in a key area. On that basis they can inflict a first defeat on the visitors and take control of the group.

England (probable, 4-4-1-1): Hart; G Johnson, Ferdinand, Terry, A Cole; A Johnson, Gerrard, Barry, J Cole (or Young); Rooney; Bent

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links