Sense of direction leads Bent back into reckoning

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The Independent Football

Since his recent renaissance, Darren Bent has done little to hide his contempt for the former Tottenham Hotspur manager, Juande Ramos, who, he revealed yesterday, said only "four words" to Bent during his time at White Hart Lane. Fabio Capello has said rather more to the Spurs striker since he joined up with the England squad on Sunday, raising the possibility that he may even start tomorrow's friendly against Germany.

With eight goals in all competitions this season, Bent has as many club goals as Gabriel Agbonlahor and more than Peter Crouch (4) and Theo Walcott (3), the other strikers in the England squad. Naturally, Bent puts his resurgence down to Harry Redknapp under whom he has scored four goals since Redknapp took over at Spurs. But Bent also has unfinished business with England, for whom he was last seen missing the final decent chance to salvage a draw with Croatia at Wembley in November last year.

That was four minutes from time and Bent, inches from being England's Euro 2008 hero, could not keep his shot under the Croatia crossbar. "I remember it quite well," Bent said yesterday, "I shaved the bar. You always think about what you could have done differently and I thought about that for long periods after the game. But you have to move on and hopefully if I get another chance I will be able to take it."

Then, like now, it was injuries that gave Bent his opportunity to play a role for England. He had a dreadful year last season, bought by Spurs' former sporting director Damien Comolli and ignored by Martin Jol and then Ramos. Redknapp has picked him because he has had little choice but, being Redknapp, he has managed to convince Bent that he really is good enough to play for England.

"I think Harry just instilled belief in the players," Bent said. "We have some fantastic players who probably weren't performing, but Harry has come in, told them they're fantastic players. I think Ramos said about four words to me in one year. Since Harry has come in, he has talked to me and told me what he wants from me and I've managed to score more goals. Harry said he has seen me for a number of years and he knows this is when I am at my best. He just tells me to go out and express myself and play like I usually do. Juande tried to complicate it and change bits and bobs. Hopefully, I am repaying Harry."

At 24, Bent won his first England cap in March 2006 – he was the highest-scoring Englishman in the Premier League in the 2005-2006 season – but should he play tomorrow it will only be his fourth appearance. Including Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey, who are out of the squad, Bent can probably count himself sixth- or seventh-choice striker in Capello's thinking but that still puts him at least one place ahead of Michael Owen. His pace is the equal of what the England striker once had, even if his finishing is not.

"I have spoken to Fabio quite a lot since I have been here and he has told me what he thinks about me as a player and what he wants," Bent said, "and I have responded to that. As long as I know what direction I am going and how I am doing, then I should be fine. As a player that is what you want, because you want to know how you are doing and what direction you are heading in, rather than there being no communication whatsoever."

Again it seemed as if Bent was recalling Ramos's management technique but there will be no complaints from Capello if he reproduces the form he has shown under Redknapp.