James Lawton: Bentley must learn how to walk before he boasts of ability to fly

The Spurs man's 'Superman' claim after his wonder goal shows he is still some way short of greatness
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The Independent Football

David Bentley may have flown home from the Emirates Stadium feeling like Superman but he can be sure it was not to the accompaniment of Fabio Capello's version of Volare.

Nor will he have convinced much of the rest of football that just because of one sublime moment he has necessarily shaken off a less uplifting status – the one not of Superman but Superclown.

Superman or Superclown? It is an argument that can only be truly settled by the player himself. The vital question is not about his talent. This has known to be serious for some time. But is he?

The England manager, of course, knew all about Bentley's exceptional flair before the spectacular 40-yard volley kick-started his Spurs team sensationally on Wednesday night – and which also reminded Arsenal's Arsène Wenger quite what level of ability he was giving up when he decided that a frequently beautiful touch came with too many discordant strings.

Capello made his admiration of Bentley's ability clear at the start of his reign when he left David Beckham out of his first squad and handed him the freedom of Wembley in a friendly against Switzerland. That was a statement of faith which puzzled many supporters who forcefully reminded the player of his decision to desert the Under-21 squad because he was suffering from "fatigue". Bentley played well enough against Switzerland but he didn't make an overwhelming case for himself. Capello was plainly less than convinced by the player's level of commitment as Beckham rode back to favour – and a windfall of unexpected caps – from the extremely dubious base of something known, originally with unintended irony, as Major League Soccer.

Bentley's explanation for slipping behind Beckham, Theo Walcott and Shaun Wright-Phillips had the familiar ring of a victim of circumstances beyond his control. It was all the fault of doomed Spurs manager Juande Ramos. He kept playing him out of position.

Now the new and so far miracle-working boss of White Hart Lane Harry Redknapp has to take a few more strides across the water.

He has to explain to the 24-year-old, who is at an age when most consistently great players have announced themselves for some time, how he mismanaged a night that might still prove to be a significant milestone in a career which for some time has been threatened by serial under-achievement.

Bentley has shown his class – on the field – wherever he has been. At Arsenal he threatened to be Wenger's first English diamond, and even in a loan stint at Norwich City there was plenty of evidence that a fine talent might survive its quirky wrapping.

At Blackburn, Mark Hughes was convinced that Wenger's decision to wash his hands of Bentley was a gift from the football heavens.

He declared: "There is no question David Bentley deserves his chance with England. It is not a question of potential. It is just a matter of watching him play and seeing what he can do. He is an outstanding player with outstanding gifts."

He has also, we saw again in the wake of his sublime strike against Arsenal, some disabling faults. Bentley, after a miserable start to a season in which he and some talented team-mates had performed so poorly that some wondered despairingly whether personal pride might at some point intrude into the affairs of a club locked in chaos, produced a memorable moment at the Emirates – but it was one on which he seemed intent on gorging upon to a disturbing degree.

No doubt the message from Redknapp will be hard and insistent.

He will point out that Liverpool will arrive at White Hart Lane tomorrow in a mood to prove that they too are capable of popping into the nearest telephone booth and emerging like so many red-caped crusaders. Liverpool are at the top of the league because thus far their manager Rafa Benitez has largely turned his back on the wonders of rotation – though on Wednesday, in a poor performance against Portsmouth there were some signs of the old dabbling – and his players have responded with a series of highly professional performances.

Tottenham, despite the heroics performed on behalf of Redknapp, are still at the bottom for precisely the opposite reason. Their professionalism has at times been so questionable that the demise of Juande Ramos, an impressive winner at Seville, has been seen by some as a disaster that might have defied the resources of any football man. Redknapp, of course, has brought an old pro's nerve – and authority – to the task and so far the response has been superb.

However, a defeat of Bolton and draw with an Arsenal who will take some time to still the rage of Wenger over their negligence in the last few minutes, scarcely draws a veil over an outrageous collective failure.

By his own admission, David Bentley was part of that sequence of shameful underperformance. It meant, most professionals would say, that there should have been only one response to the glory that came at the Emirates. It would have been a small nod of satisfaction – however fierce the inner glow – and the resolve to build on a moment of redemption.

Instead of this, Bentley conducted a post-match interview of stunning triumphalism. He talked of Superman, a risible proposition from someone still rooted at the bottom of the league. Yes, of course he scored a magnificent goal. He showed many of those touches which first inspired the belief of men like Wenger, Hughes and Capello.

But then, when it was over, he looked like a man who believed he had answered all the questions that have been building around him in the last few weeks. Of course he hadn't, no more than the rest of the team. What he had done, in a moment of enviable skill and judgement, was merely underline the legitimacy of the hardest of all of those questions. Why, at 24, is he still meandering on the margins of great success? Fabio Capello has plainly been asking that question for some time. Now, if he wants to make something significant of his career, so must David Bentley.

Vintage Bentley

"At Arsenal, it was all about statistics. I don't want a cross to be a statistic. Everything football should be wasn't happening at Arsenal. There was no banter. I lost my love for the game."

On why he left the Gunners

"My missus was asked to do it and I was like 'you ain't doing that'. It makes you, like, stupid, doesn't it?"

On his wife appearing on a WAGs reality show

"It's been difficult. We've not been together. We didn't know what people were doing. It's been shocking, a bit shit."

On Spurs' struggles this season

"It was about finding another club to rediscover my hunger. I have found that at Blackburn."

On his move to Ewood Park in 2006

"It is for the betterment of my career. I am an honest lad. I have to listen to what my body tells me. It wasn't a rash decision."

On pulling out of the England Under-21 squad

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