YOU do not ever really imagine Fabio Capello, reclining in a comfortable chair with a bottle of Peroni while picking at the remnants of an antipasti, tunes in to watch Match of the Day. Then again, what else would England’s manager be doing on a Saturday night after Strictly Come Dancing?
The Italian may well have decided to pick Darren Bent for the first time to face Brazil in Qatar this weekend when he watched the 25-year-old endure a painful afternoon against Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the day. If he had not, however, could a ringing endorsement from a former England and Newcastle skipper have changed his mind?
Having missed a penalty against his former club, Bent was distraught after the Spurs game and many of us wondered whether his confidence would crash as a result.
Given his eagerness to remind his £10m signing not to dwell on that spot- kick miss and the howls of derision that followed inside White Hart Lane, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce may well have concurred with that alarmist view.
At the time, it seemed as though Bent had fluffed his big chance in front of Capello. Having scored eight times in just 12 appearances for the Black Cats, Bent’s name had been pushed forward only for the player to waste the opportunity to show the England boss what he has been missing. Bent must have feared Capello left the ground wondering what all the fuss has been about on Wearside. In less than 48 hours, though, Bent was celebrating an unlikely recall and a chance to belatedly prove he has been unfairly ignored by the national manager.
In reality, Capello had probably already seen enough of the Sunderland striker this season to know what he could offer him, but Shearer’s view from a BBC Television Studio can not have harmed his cause.
While Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe have regularly played under the Italian, Shearer was unequivocal in his belief that Bent, on the day, had out-played both of them. It was a cold, hard assessment from one of the best centre-forwards of the modern era and it made a big impression on anyone who heard it.
“The most important thing Darren can do is score or try to score against Brazil,” said Shearer, when asked about Bent’s chances of playing in next summer’s World Cup at the screening of a new Sir Bobby Robson DVD, A Knight To Remember, at the Tyneside Cinema. “Whether we like it or not, forwards are judged on goals. The reason why we’re stood here talking about Darren Bent is because he’s scoring goals and we wouldn’t be if he had been playing fantastically well and not scored.
“Unfortunately, you don’t get many chances for your country, so when those chances come along you have to try and take them. I hope he does, because when I spoke to him he seemed a really nice guy, level-headed and genuine. If he gets his chance, I hope he takes it.
“I don’t know whether Capello will take five strikers. Wayne Rooney will go, I’m pretty sure Defoe will go. Crouch, probably, because he’s another option. Maybe (Emile) Heskey. So there’s probably three or four players vying for one or two places and Darren will be one of them, Carlton Cole might be another, Michael Owen. (Gabriel) Agbonlahor.” As a player and a Newcastle fan, Shearer had little time for Sunderland, but as a television pundit he has warmed to them and there is even a sense of regional pride when he talks about his local rivals to a national audience.
In turn, Bent has sensibly sought advice from the Newcastle legend since he arrived in the North East, advice Shearer has been all too willing to impart and their is mutual respect between them. And, while he may wear the wrong colour stripes, Shearer is obviously keen to see the Sunderland striker succeed.
He said: “He’s had a great start to his Sunderland career. I spoke to Steve Bruce about him as well and he’s been very impressed with him. This season is the first time he’s worked with him at close quarters and he said he has been very good. He’s scoring goals, his movement has been excellent, I think his run for the penalty that he got on Saturday – we won’t mention the kick itself – suggests that he’s far more than just a goalscorer. If he gets his chance against Brazil then great and good luck to him, he deserves it because of the way he started the season.
“I met him recently and just asked him how it was going, how he was enjoying the North East. It’s great that he’s playing regular football and it’s also great that for Sunderland he’s up there alongside Kenwyne Jones. They seem to have hit it off in a way that myself and Les Ferdinand did. I’m not comparing the two teams or, indeed, suggesting that Sunderland are as attack-minded as that Newcastle side was, but they seem to have something similar to that; they’re both decent in the air, both quick and they’re a real handful to defenders. If they can get the right service and the right ammunition, I think Sunderland will have a really good season.”
ALAN Shearer was speaking at the launch of ‘A Knight To Remember’, a DVD which celebrates the life of Sir Bobby Robson and the proceeds of which will go to support the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.