2004 represented a turbulent summer in Everton’s recent history. Fans were bewildered by an array of rumours concerning the club’s financial plight and the destiny not just of star player Wayne Rooney, but the very future ownership of Everton too. Amid this rancour, the arrival of Marcus Bent for a nominal fee from Ipswich Town went almost unheralded. As Rooney agitated for his move to Manchester United, the realisation that the £450,000 journeyman was, in essence, the brilliant teenager’s replacement was scarcely edifying to Evertonians.
And yet, as the 2004/05 season got under way and David Moyes settled on a five-man midfield, with Bent a lone striker, he struck a winning formula. Everton upset the Premier League form book and challenged at the top of the table, with Bent a key component of their success.
Indeed Bent’s problem was seemingly that he did not realise just how good he was. Although his finishing was at times erratic, his overall contribution to the team was excellent and he possessed all the attributes that befit a top modern striker: pace, aerial ability, technical skill. Playing alongside James Beattie, signed for a record fee the following January, Bent always looked a better bet than the man that had cost more than twelve times as much as him.
So just what held Marcus Bent back? Possibly it was his nomadic career. After starting out as a Brentford trainee in the mid-1990s he embarked on a footballing journey that took in Crystal Palace, Port Vale, Sheffield United, Blackburn Rovers, Ipswich Town and a lengthy loan period at Leicester City in the six years that preceded his move to Goodison. A lack of self-belief, perhaps, also stopped him from making the step up from decent squad player to first-choice striker. Nor did he get the goals his all-round play often merited.
Everton’s fourth-placed position at the end of the 2004/05 season owed much to Bent’s substantial but often unheralded contribution. Never was he better than when he almost lifted the net from the goalposts with a rasping last-minute equaliser against Southampton in February which kept Everton’s campaign on track.
The following season, however, he became frustrated at a lack of opportunities, often playing second fiddle to the hapless Beattie, who did little to merit his inclusion ahead of him. When David Moyes received a £2.2million bid for Bent from Charlton the following January he happily quadrupled his money on a player from whom he had got much. Although relegated with Charlton a year later, Marcus Bent returned to the Premier League with Wigan Athletic in August 2007. A subsequent move to Birmingham proved unsuccessful and after a plethora of loan moves in 2011 he wound up in Indonesia in 2011 with Mitra Kukar, club number 15.