At a time when Everton were steeped in rumours and speculation over Wayne
Rooney and his valuation in the range of £50M to $100M, Evertonians were
given a stark reality check when David Moyes completed his first senior
signing of 2004 – for the princely sum of £300k... rising to £450k on
"He is a good age and he is a price that at this present time
we could afford," said David Moyes.
Bent, who spent the 2003-04 season on loan at Leicester, scored 10
goals for the Foxes, including a last-minute winner against Everton at
the Walkers Stadium in March.
Bent was the sort of player who perhaps should have joined the club at the
start of Moyes's reign, rather than two and a bit seasons in, and half a season into his Goodison career, he
was already looking to be a good buy.
With Rooney's departure to Manchester United concluded at the eleventh hour on the August 31st transfer deadline, Moyes was given no time and no money to bring in any more attacking reinforcements. With just ageing duo, Kevin Campbell and Duncan Ferguson, the relatively untried James McFadden and Nick Chadwick as further striking options, the manager soon settled into a 4-5-1 formation spear-headed by Marcus.
It worked with stunning results as Everton rose to a high of
2nd place in the Premier League on the back of a system that relied on Bent's pace, tireless running and ability to hold the ball up, and goalscoring support from midfield in the form of Thomas Gravesen, Tim Cahill and Leon Osman.
Although Moyes talked up his loyalty to the players who had secured mathematical safety from relegation by Boxing Day, by the time the festive period rolled around, it had become clear that opposition defences had sussed the five-man midfield and that the Blues' small squad would be compromised by fatigue, injuries and suspension. Reinforcements were desperately needed and arrived in the January 2005 transfer window in the form of James Beattie from Southampton.
Whether Moyes would deploy Bent and Beattie together or merely replace one for the other remained to be seen over the second half of the season, but with five league goals and priceless contributions elsewhere on the pitch, Marcus has already proven good value for money.
His pace and movement could stretch defences, and he could hold the ball up
very well too. However, his goalscoring was limited at best, due to
making poor choices (pass? shoot?) at critical moments. He lost
effectiveness noticeably in the second half of the season, despite continued
effort at chasing down lost causes. Hard-working he is;
Champions League he certainly is not.
After becoming increasingly disinterested in playing for Everton – a
noticeable mood change that set in after the arrival of James Beattie – Bent
was finally sold in January 2006 for the incredible fee of £2.8M. Good
Bent would later lament, recalling the circumstances and emotions
surrounding his departure.
“It was the most exciting period of my life, spiritually and financially
and with my daughter being born,” he said about his time at the club. Everton still
feels like my home, my family.
“There was a lot of pressure after Wayne had gone to Manchester United.
But as a confident player and person, and because of the way I was brought
up, I wanted to confront that challenge.
“We worked for each other and if you didn’t bring it, you were
“I came on late in my last game, at Portsmouth. We won 1-0, I went to the
fans, gave my top to a woman in the crowd and said my goodbyes. The boys
knew I was leaving, so in the changing room it was hugs all round.
“My mate drove me to London to meet with Charlton the next day. I cried
all the way. All the way. I was still thinking about Everton: ‘I want to be
back with the Blues… where I was thriving’,” he added on his time at the
Valley. “I was depressed and angry and upset. Not being an Everton player
has needled me until now. Still.”
“It was hard to come to terms with losing my place and I wasn’t playing
much by then, so that disappointment really hit me,” he said on the signing
of Beattie. “It wasn’t the same for me at Everton after that. Running about
and chasing down the ball was alien to me. But I enjoyed it and that was how
we had our success.”
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