herald

Friday 20 October 2017

Go gently Bentley

Former Gunners and Tottenham star swaps his boots for Marbella

Former Arsenal and Spurs midfielder David Bentley was at Dublin's Irishtown Stadium today promoting live coverage of his former clubs' crucial Premier League clash on the Setanta Sports Pack this Saturday at 12.45pm. It's a Super Saturday of sport on the pack with UFC 196 McGregor v Diaz also exclusively live and three games in the Allianz Leagues also featuring Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Former Arsenal and Spurs midfielder David Bentley was at Dublin's Irishtown Stadium today promoting live coverage of his former clubs' crucial Premier League clash on the Setanta Sports Pack this Saturday at 12.45pm. It's a Super Saturday of sport on the pack with UFC 196 McGregor v Diaz also exclusively live and three games in the Allianz Leagues also featuring Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Life, it must be said, is not hard for David Bentley. While it can't have been easy to abandon football, his beach club in Puerto Banus must have eased the pain.

How bad? In the range of life choices most people have to cope with before they shuffle into oblivion, being paid fabulous amounts of money to kick a ball or mixing with the fabulous people in Marbella rarely make the list.

Access to the first is governed by talent and the second by cash and Bentley can be counted in the fortunate percentile gifted enough to generate plenty of the folding stuff.

He walked away from the game in 2014 after falling out of love but with career earnings which must have been north of £20m to soften the blow.

He emerged in the days when professional football still revolved around a drinking culture and Bentley clearly enjoyed the social side of the day to day life of a club. He clearly likes a laugh.

In previous interviews, he laid the blame for his decline on a moment when he was one of the conspirators who dumped a very big bucket of ice water on Harry Redknapp's head after Spurs had confirmed Champions League qualification in 2010.

He had a part to play in an epic pub crawl through Dublin when Robbie Keane brought his club-mates to his home town and nobody told 'Arry.

"We got in trouble for that, I think I got blamed for organising it but I had nothing to do with it. It was a good trip. We went to Coppers. It shows how stupid we were, we didn't think we'd get photographed," said Bentley.

"We sort of thought we were all covert, like 'No one knows what we're doing.' But everyone in the country knew where we were. It was on the front of the papers the day after."

He laughs easily but Bentley carries a sense of world weariness about the game he onc adored.

"It's an individual sport now, it's not really a team game. You've got to be careful of everyone so you don't really get that family vibe. Playing with people and socialising with people. Enjoying going to work.

"If you're in an environment where everyone keeps going to the boss and grassing you up for being out, or going "he was late today, he was late". That's what it's like now," he said.

Bentley feels that the joy is being leeched out of football and that the price to be paid for the life vast numbers of children and adults would like to live is the complete removal of anonymity.

"You've got the phones, haven't ya? People taking photos. I've sat in restaurants and people taking a sly picture and then put it online!

"I don't understand that. When did that become acceptable?

"It does have a negative effect on things, a negative effect on life in general. It restricts your personality in life and football is a reflection of society, isn't it?

Negative

"Of course it has a negative effect. People think it's wonderful but, personally, I don't think it's great," he said

Bentley popped into our consciousness in what might be described as surreality television when he put in an appearance among Crossmaglen Rangers, apparently to explore their amateur ethos and experience all that a GAA club has to offer.

It was an oddity and perhaps pointed to the direction Bentley wanted to take his career after hanging up his boots, disillusioned with the game and wealthy enough to not bother any more if he fancied doing something else.

Crossmaglen gave him a perspective on amateur commitment which he found deeply attractive.

"I mean football used to be like that back in the day when I first started playing but it's changed a lot because society has changed.

"You know the media , social media, the focus, the money, the bitter minds of people towards the players," said Bentley

"You literally play football, go home and that's it, whereas before there was a lot more fun, it was an enjoyable experience.

"Going there (Crossmaglen) was like the way it used to be.

"The lads were all socially together all the time and they loved what they did.

"I think now the players . . . the game suffers.

"I think that's why you see the football league which for me, to be honest, is quite boring to watch. There's not much sort of personality or charisma in the game any more which is a shame."

It would be easy to dismiss Bentley as a bit of a dreamer who earned too much money for doing too little.

But he was a remarkable talent and for whatever reason, doesn't want to play any more.

There's a good chance we'll see more and more like him in the years to come.

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