Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, believes the club's supporters are finally seeing the best of David Bentley, but he offered no guarantee that the England international will not be back in the reserves soon.
Bentley has spent much of the season in limbo watching others propel the team up the table, and a good result against Aston Villa this evening will strengthen their hold on fourth place in the Premier League table. Redknapp had not been impressed by the player's work-rate and Bentley had not done himself or the club any good after a high-profile drink-driving incident. The winger has started the last three matches, however, and Redknapp believes he is now justifying the £15m Spurs paid Blackburn Rovers a season and a half ago.
"I don't hold grudges, I don't work that way," Redknapp said. "The work- rate and ability he has showed has been fantastic. Other people possibly wouldn't have had the patience that I've shown with him. There were a group of about eight when I got here who weren't in the first team, they were isolated and not training with the others, but I'm not into sending players off to train on their own or with the youth team.
"He knows he wasn't doing what he should have been doing. Deep down he's a good lad. When he wasn't playing, his head went down and he probably didn't see any light at the end of the tunnel. Now, suddenly, he's back playing and enjoying it.
"When you come in every day and you're not playing, it's difficult. He was a big player at Blackburn and he couldn't accept it really. It's easy for us to say 'he gets paid to do it' but we're all different."
Initially, Redknapp swapped Niko Kranjcar from the left flank to replace Aaron Lennon, who will not require an operation on a damaged groin as had been first feared. But when the Croat fell ill, Bentley was finally given his chance – and he has taken it with both hands.
"When Aaron was injured I didn't think he deserved it" Redknapp said. "It's not as if I brought him back into the team. But life is like that; opportunity comes and you take it."
It would be a surprise, though, if Lennon remained on the sidelines on regaining full fitness – which Redknapp estimated was only a week or two away – and he would therefore also be ready to play in England's next game, a friendly with Egypt at Wembley on 3 March.Reuse content