Football Firsts: Darren Bent on Arsenal fandom, Ian Wright & Chelsea disputes
Darren Bent may have played for nine different clubs over the course of his career, but he still considers himself a fan of his first love: Arsenal.
Speaking to us ahead of the return of the EFL on Quest highlights show this Saturday, we asked Bent about some of his ‘football firsts’, including why he upset his dad by pledging his allegiance to the Gooners.
The former England international also told us about breaking through at Ipswich Town and a night to forget which at least he can look back upon fondly.
First club he supported
“The mighty Arsenal – still now! I still follow their results. I still talk about them quite highly.
“It’s because of Ian Wright. I grew up in south London, Thornton Heath, and their local team is Crystal Palace. Obviously Ian Wright was there. I didn’t really support Palace, but I liked him.
“The moment he went to Arsenal I was like, ‘Yes, that’s my team.'”
Planet Football: You kept that quiet at Tottenham then?!
“A couple of people knew, but since I’ve left there that’s all people say. ‘Oh, so it’s the former Arsenal supporter but former Tottenham player?!'”
— thevillazone (@thevillazone) February 8, 2016
“The first game I went to as a fan was Chelsea, because my dad’s a Chelsea season ticket holder. It was against Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. I think it finished 2-2 or 1-1. I can remember Mark Bright scored for Palace, but I can’t remember who scored for Chelsea.
“My dad kept it as a surprise. Every Saturday, my dad would be like, ‘Right, I’m off to the football.’ I’d just be like, ‘OK, see you later.’
“This one particular time he said, ‘Right, come along, D.’ I went, ‘Where are we going?’ He told me he had to drop me off at my grandma’s. When we got to my grandma’s I remember seeing the floodlights – it was back when football clubs had the big, big floodlights.
“Even then, like an idiot, he parked the car, we’re walking through the turnstile, and I’m still like, ‘Are we watching this game?!’
“I’ll never forget that. It was when it was still standing at Chelsea as well.”
PF: What did your dad make of you becoming an Arsenal fan?
“Listen, he tried! Even with my kids now, every Christmas and birthday he buys them Chelsea kits, Chelsea baby grows, Chelsea lunchboxes, Chelsea water bottles. I’m fighting a losing battle!
“He has such an influence on them, they love being with him, so they’re kind of torn [between Arsenal and Chelsea] at the minute. You’ll see my six-year-old wearing a Chelsea shirt and Arsenal shorts.”
“Ian Wright was my first hero – goalscorer, celebrations, No.8. He wore No.8 for Arsenal so I wore No.8 for my Sunday League side. He was by far my first hero.”
“It was an Arsenal shirt. JVC, red shirt, V-neck, white sleeves – loved it, absolutely loved it. Wright 8 on the back. I used to wear it all the time.
“I think my dad tried to buy me a Chelsea Commodore shirt but I don’t think that ever went on!”
“1995, Nayim from the halfway line against David Seaman. That one there was the biggest one where I couldn’t believe what had happened.”
First pair of boots
“John Fashanu Quasars, I wore them for my Sunday League side. I’m not sure how long I had them but after those it was Marco van Basten Diadoras.”
First major tournament
“1994 World Cup, because my dad went to it in the USA. Brazil won it on penalties. That’s the first major tournament I can remember.”
First senior game
“My debut was against Helsingborg [for Ipswich Town] in the UEFA Cup. I had a chance and it got saved. I can remember coming on and running around like a headless chicken because I was so excited about actually making my debut.
“That was against Newcastle away in the League Cup. We were 4-0 down at the time. George Burley goes, ‘Darren, just go on, run around, enjoy yourself.’
“Jamie Clapham put me in, I ran through, toe punt, bottom corner, 4-1. I couldn’t believe it. I went and got the ball and ran back to the halfway line. There were about two minutes left!”