David Bentley yesterday admitted that a series of personal problems had threatened to blow his career off course.
The Blackburn Rovers midfielder scored twice in the 3-1 friendly win by England Under-21s over Norway at Reading on Tuesday night, a few weeks after hitting a hat-trick for his club in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Manchester United.
But Bentley revealed that he had been able to concentrate fully on football only when his loan move from Arsenal to Ewood Park was made permanent at the end of the January transfer window.
"I've had a few personal problems but I believe I'm through that now and trying to push on in the game," said the 21-year-old. "We suffered deaths in the family last year, which took their toll on both me and the rest of the family. I also had problems on the football side at the beginning of the season, trying to get my career on the right path - but that's all resolved now. I've been looking to make a clean break and get on with it this season, and that seems to be what I've managed to do.
"I had to take a couple of weeks off pre-season and what was going on knocked me about a bit, but now things are in a much happier place in my life."
As well as scoring two goals, Bentley displayed pace, skill and creativity against the Norwegians, prompting the Under-21 coach Peter Taylor to suggest he might be the solution to the England senior team's problem position on the left side of midfield. Bentley featured on the left of England's five-man midfield in a wide row and then, in the second-half, on the left of a narrower four-man midfield in which he cut in regularly. Taylor was impressed.
"David was very good [on Tuesday night]. His movement was excellent, his touch was excellent and his two goals were first-class.
"When he scored his two goals, he was playing on the left of a four-man midfield and making some excellent runs. We know he is a great finisher - he will always be a danger and he is benefiting greatly from playing regular first-team football at Blackburn.
"He is one of a number of players in this squad who will be capable of breaking into the senior set-up in the future. They are playing well enough, and I'm confident that they will keep improving all the time."
Bentley said he had yet to make a specific position his own, but he made a number of promising incursions from the left flank and caused problems for Norway all evening.
"I don't seem to have settled down in one position and maybe that could hinder me somewhere along the line a little bit," he said. "As a young lad you're happy just playing and enjoying being on the pitch. I'm open to playing anywhere I'm told. I don't think I've found my position. Maybe in the next couple of years I can find it and then settle there for the rest of my career."
The performance of Bentley at the Madejski Stadium was all the more impressive given the off-field difficulties he has had to face in recent months. He said: "Although I haven't been playing for that long, it was definitely the toughest period of my career. Football took a back seat in my life for a while - and at my age you can't really afford for that to happen.
"It needs to be the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night, and that's what it's like again now. It meant I could settle down, and my family could also relax. They knew where I was going to be every week. There wasn't the worry about whether I'd be going back to Arsenal.
"But I feel part of the club at Blackburn. Most of my family come from the North-west so that made it easier to put down roots."Reuse content