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The Curious Case of Nicklas Bendtner

Saturday 7th April 2012
Speak about humble pie to Nicklas Bendtner and he will be thinking you are on about an actual pie made of deer entrails, or so his reputation would have you believe. It is very easy to dislike the Dane, especially when he potters about with a daft trilby on or declares himself one of the best strikers on the planet. Let me give you another side to Bendtner who is arguably the most misunderstood player and person in the Premier League.

These days, press interviews with Bendtner are perhaps less abundant than they were. Recently in a local newspaper he cited the tendency for his words to be misinterpreted as the reason for that. The quote regarding his status as a striker in world football is one that particularly irks him. He went on to stress the point he was making was that he believed in his abilities and could one day see himself as one of the best strikers in the world. His point, which should be perceived as admirable confidence, has been widely accepted as the portrayal of an ugly, inflated ego.

He is still to this day battling against negativity towards him from football fans everywhere, all of which could arguably have been catalysed by that interview. Even the quote he made regarding the sacrifices of a footballer were blown out of context, with websites claiming he said he deserves his high wages purely because he cannot go skiing. After all, English is not the man's mother tongue, but it is not like our delightful media to cut a footballer some slack - a media which almost solely influences the heroes and villains in the modern day game.

Let's talk football now and Bendtner's first team break came on loan at Birmingham City when he was just eighteen, a successful loan spell which helped the Blues to promotion that season as runners up. He did manage just 9 goals in 39 appearances, and since then a reputation of not scoring enough goals has clung to him almost as much as the egotistical label. His Arsenal record, however, is quite impressive if taken into context. He made 146 appearances in all competitions, scoring 43 goals. Considering 74 of those appearances were from the bench, and that he was often operating from the right wing, that is a very good return. His first, was in a 2-0 victory over Newcastle - good lad! It is probably fair to say he is more remembered for his misses in London rather than the goals he scored. There were a few sitters he did miss in all fairness!

Bendtner's international career started with a flourish. He scored debut goals for both the Under-21s and the full National team. Although he is still just 24, he has racked up an impressive 46 caps marking those with 17 goals, including vital goals against Portugal in the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers. Denmark ended up qualifying for the Championships as a result, with Bendtner grabbing a goal in their 2-1 victory over Cameroon. He was also voted Danish Player of the Year in 2009 – you sense that will not be the only time he wins that accolade.

Steve Bruce snapped up Bendtner on loan for Sunderland for the second time in his managerial career. Bendtner immediately had a fight on his hands to win over the fans with many uninspired by the deadline day deal. A combination of his reputation and that he was the name which would soon need to replace former fan's favourite Asamoah Gyan compounded the Dane's uphill task. During Bruce's tenure Bendtner, like most Sunderland players, failed to brighten the Stadium of Light with just two goals in the first third of the season. His goal-scoring form has improved dramatically, firing four goals in his last five Premier League games and suddenly his position in Wearside is much more positive.

It is extremely easy to judge a striker on his goal return, as its only common sense to presume the main task of the lone frontman is to carry the burden in terms of scoring goals. To be frank I find that quite a lazy view point to hold. In the modern game, strikers like Darren Bent whose game is all about scoring goals are few and far between with the goal scoring baton shared amongst the midfield as well. Bendtner is second only to Stephane Sessegnon in terms of combined goals and assists; the striker has been involved in no less than 28.5% of the Black Cats' goals.

Testament to a role which could be described as more of a creative forward than a striker, you often see Bendtner pop up on the right or left wing, holding the ball up for a vital few seconds to allow the Sunderland midfield to pile forward. He likes to take one or two defenders out of the game momentarily, which might not always work but it does buy a vital extra yard or two for his teammates to drive into when it does. To be fair it works more often than not. He is usually the first focal point in a lot of Sunderland's attacks.

Bendtner is fast becoming an integral cog in Martin O'Neill's Sunderland and, because of that, finally seems to be winning over a few fans up here. O'Neill has hinted recently that assuming the striker continues his form; he will give Bendtner a decision to make. A permanent deal does seem unlikely however, with his reported wages exceeding the current top earner at Sunderland. Even if a deal could be reached regarding wages, he has reportedly said he spends a lot of his time in his house now being so far away from London, which for eight years has been his home. I doubt this city has enough bright lights to quench his well-documented social desires and expect to be wishing him all the best in his future endeavours come the end of the season. Cheers Nicklas, in the slightly amended words of Randy Newman, you've got a fan in me.

Gary McLaughlin
Sunderland born. Sunderland bred. Maybe a tad Sunderland biased too but nevermind. Love to put fingers to keys.

Total articles: 29

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