Football Psychology: David Bentley – Underachievement!

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Football PsychologistHe is one of the great under-achievers of English football in recent times. Blessed with talent and natural ability, but not a lot to show for it.

Yes Im aware that seven England caps sit on the Bentley sideboard. And that is something to be proud of. But why only seven caps. Why not seventy? Why did David Bentley not go on to make a name for himself? Why is his career shrouded in a sense of what might have been?

When David Bentley played for England U21’s early in his career, as the teams came out onto the pitch, Bentley put out his tongue to the cameras. It was an odd thing to do for an England international.

Where was the sense of pride at representing England. A pride that would naturally create a sense of game focus and intensity of concentration, that would make the player almost unaware of the cameras.

It was as if he had to do something for the cameras. To tell everyone ‘David Bentley is here’. Whereby the player becomes more important in his own mind, than the team or country he represents.

When Tottenham secured fourth place in the 2009-10 Premier League to secure Champions League football, with a result at Man City, it was Bentley who poured a bucket of icy water over Harry Redknapp, as the boss was being interviewed. It was as if he couldn’t let his manager take the limelight. The attention seeking player had to spoil the moment.

Now with any talented player, there are invariably psychological flaws. Bentley seeks attention because he probably needs it – needs the confirmation; the recognition; the sense of belonging and inclusion; the love.

So the task for any manager is to both ensure that Bentley gets his emotional needs met, in return for the player delivering his side of the bargain. It’s a high risk strategy, because a manager can use up a lot of energy managing the high maintenance player, and not get a return on the pitch.

Right now, Bentley’s career is drifting into nothingness. He probably doesn’t have to work again, so what is his motivation for playing? Well with five or six good years left in his career, he has to sit down and work out what he wants.

Can he re-connect to his love of the game. The feeling of being unplayable. The buzz that comes from working hard and being fully concentrated on the task in hand. The joy that comes from trusting your skills and talent.

It might be too late for Bentley. He may already have become set in his ways, and smartly knows what he has to do to take a living from the game. But with his future career options looking limited, the return to his old stomping ground, may be the wake up call this under-achieving player needs. A shot of northern reality that rekindles old feelings, and sparks the fires of motivation, and the urge to prove a point. We shall see!