|Marcus Bent - Striker|
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 business, Everton!
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 questioned.
“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.”