‘I owe a lot to Norwich’ - Bentley recalls life under Worthy, victory over United and dressing room banter
- Credit: Archant © 2005
He may have fallen out of love with football eventually but David Bentley still has plenty of happy memories of his introduction to Premier League life with Norwich City.
After a handful of appearances for Arsenal the skilful midfielder joined the Canaries on loan following their promotion to the top flight under Nigel Worthington in 2004, scoring two goals in 27 games.
He couldn’t keep City in the league but after a successful spell at Blackburn he earned a £15million move to Tottenham, also earning seven England caps. However, after loans at Birmingham, West Ham, Russian club Rostov and a return to Blackburn, Bentley retired at just 29 years old.
“It was a great learning experience,” he recalls of his Norwich stint, still aged just 35. “Coming out of Arsenal I was moved around in different positions and put into men’s football in the Premier League and being around Craig Fleming and Darren Huckerby, with Paul McVeigh and Gary Doherty, we had quite a good unit of players. They all helped me and I learned a lot.
“I remember the first game I played. Phew, the pace of Premier League was very different to what I was used to so they helped me a lot. I owe a lot to Norwich and I enjoyed my time there. They’re a great football club and they give you a chance.”
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There was one particular lesson learned under Worthington as well, as a 20-year-old at the time, when a joke in training backfired on him.
Bentley reportedly mimicked the Peter Kay ‘ave it’ joke as he booted the ball away at Colney, copying the popular advert for John Smith’s bitter, which saw him left out for two matches and Worthington talking of his pride in the “good discipline” within his squad.
While the former City loanee didn’t want to talk about that incident, speaking to 888sport, he insisted he had no problem with the former Sheffield Wednesday and Northern Ireland left-back.
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“I got on well with him,” Bentley said. “I had a couple of incidents but overall he wanted to win and was solid.
“He used to mark me in training. He was a decent left-back.”
Bentley hit the bar as City were beaten 2-1 at Manchester United during their first away game of the 2004-05 season but he found his range during the next game, a 2-2 draw at Newcastle.
“We had a good team spirit there with Darren Huckerby and Gary Doherty, the ‘Ginger Pele’,” he joked as he continued. “It was a good solid club for that. Every day was good old fashioned banter and the whole club is built on a family friendly feel. I loved it there.
“My first goal was up at Newcastle, from 25 yards out. I smacked it and the keeper got both hands to it but it still went in. He probably should have saved it.
“It felt brilliant. That was one of my favourite grounds to play in and that was my first time there. That’s some stadium. Some atmosphere.”
An injury in January ruled the Arsenal talent out for three months but his return helped spark a late surge which so nearly finished in a great escape, coming on at half-time with no score against Manchester United.
That soon transformed into a famous 2-0 win and the Canaries winning four of their last six, only for it all to fall apart during a horrendous 6-0 loss at Fulham on the final day.
“I remember I delivered a ball for Dean Ashton against United, a header I think it was,” he recalls. “I’d been out injured after getting concussion at West Ham away. I was seeing stars and should have come off but didn’t and then I did my knee.
“So that was a big experience being out for so long. At that age I was just starting to get some momentum playing Premier League football so that was tough.
“Then I came back and there was a big final push but we couldn’t do it. We just lacked a few things other teams had.”
Bentley is sad to see his former club on the verge of another top-flight relegation but still feels the future is bright under the guidance of Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke.
“Norwich have some good players and they play good football and they started the season well,” he concludes. “But it’s their lack of strength in depth that’s done for them.
“The whole club is run in such a way that they can take relegation. They look after the football club. So to go down is not as severe or as risky for them as with others who plough in money and put themselves in financial difficulties in a bid to stay up.”
- You can read more of the interview with Bentley at 888sport.com.