The Journeyman

Journeyman: A worker or sports player who is reliable but not outstanding.

Not my words, the words of the first search result on Google. Welcome to this new series, The Journeyman XI, where I take a look back at those players who Premier League clubs deemed to be surplus to requirements…several times. Let me make this clear – these are not bad players, you won’t find a tribute to Jean-Alain Boumsong or Ali Dia in the coming weeks. They’re just players who defied all sporting logic year on year to find themselves in the upcoming season’s Premier League sticker album.

There’s only one place to start, and that’s with a man who is so journeyman it’s in the first line of his Wikipedia entry. Ladies and gentlemen: Marcus Bent.

In the beginning…

Bent’s first dabble in the Premier League came in 1998, where Steve Coppell saw fit to spend £300k to try and help save his struggling Crystal Palace team from relegation. It didn’t work, though Bent did manage to score a wonderful goal at Anfield which can be seen on YouTube if you want to see a wonderful back post volley. Anyway, Palace were relegated and Terry Venables came in as gaffer. Bent failed to score in the First Division so was flogged to Port Vale, where he was equally impotent until Sheffield United rescued him and Neil Warnock brought back Bent’s goalscoring form. That convinced Graeme Souness to spend £2m on Bent, and 11 goals later Blackburn were promoted back to the Premier League. Bent had another crack at the big time, despite the emotional scars that inevitably come from playing for Warnock and Souness.

The price of failure

In a shocking turn of events, Bent failed to score in 10 Premier League games for Blackburn, which for some reason convinced George Burley to spend £3m on him and Ipswich became Bent’s third Premier League club. However, despite nine goals in 22 league starts, Ipswich were relegated from the Premier League and before long Bent was on the move again. After suffering the indignity of being replaced by Darren Bent (who is not related), Marcus was loaned up to Premier League Leicester. Leicester were relegated, though I’m sure it wasn’t his fault.

Bouncing Back

Everton finished 17th that season, and despite that brush with relegation decided they better go all out for relegation in the 2004/05 season by paying £450,000 for Bent’s services. Despite upsetting the odds and helping Everton to 4th, Bent was replaced by James Beattie during the 2005/06 season and it was time to find a 6th Premier League club. When Charlton paid £2.3m for his services in January 2006, the outcome was predictable. Bent managed a paltry two league goals in 06/07 and Charlton were relegated. When you think you’ve sunk as low as you can, Bent moved to Wigan on loan for the 07/08 season and despite not being relegated, he received the words nobody wants to hear from his manager Steve Bruce – “I’m not signing you, you’re too similar to Emile Heskey.”

Rock Bottom

Most players would have retired after such setbacks, but Bent never gave up his (probable) dream of playing for 8 Premier League clubs. After some lean years at Birmingham, Middlesbrough and QPR in the Championship, you’d be forgiven for thinking his Premier League dream was over. You can always rely on Mick McCarthy though, and he took Bent on loan to Wolves for half a season, making his five final Premier League appearances without scoring. Even Mick Mc didn’t renew that loan, and it was back to Birmingham for the remainder of the campaign before he was released. There followed a presumably lucrative move to the ever popular Indonesian Super League, where he lasted 4 months before being let go.

Random Bent Facts

Marcus Bent has a Premier League hat-trick to his name, netting three times for Wigan against former club Blackburn in the 2007/08 season. Bent also played for England Under 21s on two occasions and even managed a goal. However, the award for most persistent lover of Marcus Bent is Micky Adams, who managed him for three different clubs. Nobody is really sure why.

In my opinion…

Marcus Bent is really the king of the Journeyman. In this fictional side, he would be captain, but almost certainly not top goal scorer. Clearly Bent had “something” but playing for regularly poor sides probably didn’t help and he became a go to signing for anybody in the bottom half of the table. Some of the loan moves were ludicrous, but the fact that he played for 8 Premier League clubs can’t be disputed. Welcome to the team, Marcus.