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Darren Bent backs Manager Jol

last updated Saturday 09th November 2013, 2:07 PM

Fulham striker Darren Bent
Fulham striker
Darren Bent
Darren Bent
Fulham striker has averaged just 15 touches of the ball in his Premier League matches for Fulham this season.

He goes almost four minutes between touches in the top flight - significantly longer than any other striker. Goalkeepers such as Joe Hart and David de Gea have more touches per game.

The stats don't bother him, however. 'If a chance is presented I want to hit the target and nine times out of 10 I'll take the chance,' says Bent, 29.

'That's what I've always tried to do. It's probably instinct - know where the ball's going to drop and get there faster than the opposition. I was an Arsenal fan and Ian Wright was my hero but Michael Owen was probably the best at that instinct.'

Try as he might at training this week, Bent could not recreate the infamous 'beach ball' goal he scored for Sunderland against Liverpool in 2009, ahead of Fulham's trip to Anfield today.

'Nowhere near!' he says, laughing. 'That was definitely the craziest goal I've ever scored. I could never do it again.'

Bent speaks a little like he plays. There is no tracking back. It seems no coincidence that when the instinctive art of goalscoring is mentioned, Bent gets particularly fired up.

He describes Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge as the 'best partnership in football at the moment', but seems less hopeful that the Bent-Berbatov-Ruiz combination can work for Fulham.

The three have been on the pitch together just four times during Bent's season-long loan from Aston Villa, with all apparently unwilling to do the donkey work. Is that fair?

'Maybe,' says Bent, nodding. 'We're all known for going forward but it's up to us to adapt our game. With time, I hope the three of us will work. People might sometimes take Berba's demeanour as arrogance but he just wants to win all the time.'

There is sympathy for Ruiz too, the £10million signing who has been jeered recently by the generally unflappable Fulham crowd. Bent can understand the extra pressure of a price tag, having commanded fees of more than £50m.

'When I went to Tottenham for £16.5m it was hard. You miss a chance and you're a "£16m flop". It didn't help that Thierry (Henry) went (to Barcelona) in the same window for less. It was like, "Flippin' hell!"

'But when I went to Villa for £24m and Sunderland for £14m it was easy. I just forgot about it. It didn't faze me one bit.

'I had to leave Tottenham because I needed to play games but part of me wishes I had stayed a bit longer, just to succeed there, but everyone needs time.

'Look at Gareth Bale. I remember being at Tottenham and they wanted to send him to Nottingham Forest. And now he's the most expensive player ever.'

Bent's record - 105 goals in 253 Premier League appearances - puts him 21st on the all-time list and 14th among Englishmen. There is only a shrug, however, when it is suggested he does not always get the recognition he might deserve.

'I've played for England and at one stage I was the first-choice centre forward because I played in four or five qualifiers in a row.'

He has not given up on England, despite the last of his 13 caps coming two years ago, but he knows he must sort out his club form first.

His three Fulham goals this season have all come from the bench. The 'most important thing is the ball's going in the back of the net', but it is not happening frequently enough for Martin Jol's side, who are just two points clear of the relegation zone.

Bent is aware of speculation about Jol's future, yet the striker discusses Jol in particularly warm terms, describing the gruff, glowering Dutchman as a 'great motivator' who makes his players feel like they can 'walk on water'.

Bent says he passed up a reunion with his old Charlton boss Alan Pardew at Newcastle, a manager who 'is only going to go upwards', to work again with Jol, who first signed him at Tottenham in 2007.

'We see how passionate Martin is,' says Bent. 'We probably see a side to him that others don't. They might ask, "What does he actually do?" But he works hard and fires everyone up and he's a great motivator.

'If he puts a session on you know full well he's going to be right in there, pointing the finger and making sure everyone's pulling their weight. He doesn't sit back.

'We like Martin Jol and want him to stay. We like playing for him. We just need that consistency. He was a massive part of me joining Fulham. It was just important to be back around first-team football because it's no secret that when I went back for pre-season (at Villa) I was training with the kids.'

Bent does not describe Villa boss Paul Lambert by name, only mentioning him briefly in the third person before referring to the 'difficult situation' which saw him exiled from the first-team squad. He says he still does not know why.

'I couldn't even tell you,' Bent says. 'People have said, "It's got to have been something. Did you have an argument or a falling out?" But it was nothing. He just seemed to change like that overnight.' Bent clicks his fingers.

'One minute everything was fine and the next minute - whoosh - out. It was difficult at first. I just couldn't get my head around it. I couldn't quite figure out why it was happening.

'But Aston Villa's a magnificent club and I'm still their player. It's just nice to be back involved. It's just . . . nicer, that's all. As long as I'm scoring goals, I'm happy.'

Source Laura Williamson at SportsMail
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