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That’s just Bent-ley.


David Bentley’s decision to leave England’s under-21 squad at the eleventh hour of the U21 Championships is indicative of a growing malaise in the sport. When David Bentley scored the first ever goal by an Englishman at Wembley in the 3-3 draw with Italy earlier this year, he revealed how proud he was to have earned the record. Now, with a little whispering from Mark Hughes, the talented youngster has called it a day, leaving the England squad short of a star performer who cannot be replaced. England are thus down to 22 men and short one of their most experienced performers.

When Stuart Pearce revealed how upset he was at the decision it was clear that he simply couldn’t fathom it. The idea of Pearce pulling out of an England squad for anything short of a broken leg was laughable in his day, so to see someone as talented as Bentley calling it a day because he fears fatugue for Blackburn’s next season, must be maddening for the England coach.

There is no doubt Mark Hughes will have played a huge role in this decision. Hughes stated today:

“David has told me he is exhausted and I completely understand,” said Hughes.

“Although he takes representing his country very seriously indeed, David has barely had time to catch breath over the past 10 months and he clearly needs a rest.

Hughes learnt from the best, Alex Ferguson, a man who has his players under no doubt as to where their priorities lie. Ryan Giggs, one of if not the best player Wales have ever produced played one away friendly in his career for Wales, last year against Brazil. One. Giggs ended his international career last week at the age of 33 with just 64 caps to his name. It may seem like a lot, but for a player who would have been a guaranteed starter since the age of eighteen, he failed to do himself justice on the international stage, with ferguson regularly pulling him out of international games. Likewise Ferguson’s influence on Roy Keane’s rocky relationship with the Irish FAI was always with United’s best interests at heart. And who can blame him. We, the supporters can. The reasons why these tournaments often fail to live up to expectation is because they are the only games most of the players really care about.

Bentley has had a great season at Blackburn. And Mark Hughes is well aware of his potential. However, Hughes rang Pearce on thursday to ask for Bentley to be withdrawn from the squad, a gesture rejected by Pearce and rightly so. The idea that Bentley turned around of his own accord and decided to walk is a ludicrous one.While it is true that the game has become faster, more important even, and players are certainly fitter, the idea that a young man like Bentley cannot play in this tournament, take a month off and come back ready to go is laughable. Sorry, but these players are in a position of such privilege that they should do everything they can to play for their country. Everything. Giggs had played 64 times, has little time left in those legs, it’s understandable that he wants to spend less time on the road etc…But if a 22 yeard old like Bentley, starting out on his international career, prefers to focus on rest ahead of his club season than an international tournament, then shame on him. Steve McLaren and future England bosses will not be too impressed.

Bentley can only lose in this scenario. He will be looked down upon for the decision by the fans, media and his international managers and coaches. The chance to compete against the cream of the crop of your age group should have been relished. The chance to show clubs around Europe what you can do, even to show your own club what a prized asset they have, it’s simply not believable that Bentley can be that worn out that he’s chosen to forsake all this for a beach somewhere. He must really love football…..

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