Marcus: I'll battle for my place

MARCUS Bent has it all – pace, power and a predator's instinct for scoring goals.But it is fair to say the Ipswich fans have not yet seen the best of the former England Under 21 striker.

By Georgina James

MARCUS Bent has it all – pace, power and a predator's instinct for scoring goals.

But it is fair to say the Ipswich fans have not yet seen the best of the former England Under 21 striker.

And with competition for the striking positions as fierce as ever, the Town marksman is hoping to make his presence felt in Division One and wipe away the memories of a disappointing last season.

"As a forward you always look to score 20 goals – that's your target, but after last season I'm not going to put a number on my expectations this time.

"Last season didn't actually happen how I wanted it to and it was extremely frustrating. I don't like to make excuses but I got injured which obviously hampered me.

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"Pablo and Benty did really, really well last season, so it was more that I was having to fight for a place.

"If you didn't perform as well as you should have, rightly you were out of the team. And I just wasn't flowing like I should have been," said Bent.

Like any footballer sitting in the dugout is not something he enjoys.

"Of course it hurts being on the bench and just having to wait for your chance.

"If the others are doing their job properly and I'm on the bench that's fair enough. But, be assured, I'll be cracking at their heels to try and get my place in the team.

"Don't get me wrong, I don't sit there hoping the lads on the pitch have a nightmare game. I want them all to do very well.

"I don't begrudge anyone success. But if they happen to have a bad game and I get brought in to replace them, so be it – that's the way football is and that's the way life is," said the 25-year-old.

Nobody knows what Joe Royle's ideal starting formation and strongest line-up will be come the first game against Reading on August 9, but during the pre-season matches both Bents and Counago have lined-up alongside one another in a 4-3-3 formation.

"It's not hard to work out, but it's a matter of getting used to playing another way," explained Bent on the three-striker policy.

"Obviously playing just two strikers there's more room to manoeuvre and make more runs.

"In our first game on tour it wasn't too bad because we were moving about a bit and not staying in just one position.

"Sometimes when you play three up front, you can tend to defend more than you attack and that's not for me. Everyone will tell you, the fans and coaches, I'm not really a defender. Get the ball up to me and I'll try and score," said Bent.

And if each striker nets the standard 20-goal target the Portman Road faithful should be in for a real goal feast.

"If we all score 20 we should go up," grinned Marcus. "However, somehow I don't think it's going to be as easy and straightforward as that."

With transfer speculation a source of constant distraction for players, Bent says over the years he has come to learn how to blank it all out.

"It used to affect me. I'm now 25 and I feel 35. I've been about long enough to know paper talk, rumours and what fans are talking about are not true. It's when you hear from the club or your agent you know something is going to go through," he said.

And Bent has had good exposure to this having already played for six clubs in his young career.

"I've been at a number of clubs, Ipswich being my sixth and my longest serving as a professional which is a lot.

"In a ways its good as I've been up and down the country, but in a way it's not, as I've never got a chance to settle anywhere.

"I'm happy here at Ipswich. There is a good set of lads and a nice atmosphere in the dressing room."

Surprisingly Bent senior, conceded over the debate as to which striker is the fastest.

"I don't think Pablo's in contention. It's between Benty and me and he probably just edges it as he has younger legs.

"Obviously my asset is running because of my pace. I'm quite strong and good in the air, so when the ball is played over the top I fancy my chances of winning and getting in a scoring position.

"Also, I feel as a player, I'm good enough to get the ball at my feet and make things happen."