England progress is Darren's target
Darren Bent is confident he can make giant strides on the international stage now the uncertainty over his England place has been ended. Few Three Lions players are selected quite as inconsistently as Bent has been since he first received a call-up from Sven-Goran Eriksson for the stuffing by Denmark in Copenhagen five years ago. The 26-year-old's presence in Capello's squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro on Tuesday represents only the third time Bent has appeared on three successive occasions. Should he win his eighth cap - and make his first competitive start - at Wembley next week, it would break new ground as Bent would be appearing in back-to-back England matches for the first time. Considering Bent has scored 78 Premier League goals since that initial call, it seems a rather difficult statistic to understand. However, after claiming earlier this week Bent is "one of the important players for the future", Capello has put the striker's mind at ease. And, after getting his first England goal in Switzerland last month, the Sunderland marksman is eager to grab a few more. "It is hard when you are in and out of the squad," he said. "For 90% of the players, they know they are going to be in it before it is announced, so they can prepare. "I can't really do too much. I have been in limbo really." Capello's previous selections have given the impression he is not much of a Bent fan. Certainly there has been nothing to suggest this week's enhancement of the Londoner's position was coming, having dumped the forward from his provisional World Cup squad after an ineffective performance against Japan in May. Bent's instant reaction was to take himself off to the United States, where he was spotted at an NBA game. A rather more measured approach has brought further improvement. "I've had the best year of my life to put myself in this position and I started well this season," he said. "It does seem that I need to be scoring a lot of goals to be selected but I wouldn't have it any other way. "It is nice to have something driving you. If I have to keep scoring goals that is fine." There must also be a certain amount of respect for Bent's mental fortitude. He was tipped as an outside bet to make Eriksson's squad for Germany in 2006. Missing out on that occasion was not too dispiriting given how recently he had broken onto the international scene. Four years on, after scoring so many goals, his 25 being more than any other English player with the exception of Wayne Rooney, the pain of rejection was far more acute. "I remember sitting in the dressing room after I had come off at half-time against Japan, with the game going on outside, thinking what could I have done better," he said. "That game was a bit like a trial. "After the squad had been announced, and I wasn't in it, I went back to my mum's house and spent a lot of time with my family and close friends. "There was not much I could do to vent my anger and frustration at not going to a World Cup. "It was a blow but missing out four years earlier helped me. It hurt like hell but I half knew how to deal with it." Bent returned with a mental clarity that is typical of him in times of trouble. A regular goalscorer for Ipswich and Charlton, he endured a miserable two years at Tottenham, eventually pleading, in a non-too-subtle Twitter message to chairman Daniel Levy, to be allowed to leave for Sunderland. To an outsider, it seemed like a backward step. To Bent the move to Wearside was of the forward variety. "Harry Redknapp had a way of playing and I didn't fit into those plans. I don't hold that against him," he said. "But I was getting 10 minutes here and there. I thought my game was better than that. "Sunderland are a massive club. Steve Bruce gave me the opportunity to play every week and last season I showed I was better than just sitting on the bench. "I am playing the best football of my life right now. I am very happy and hopefully I will be there for a while."
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