Marc of respect for boy turned Lane skipper

WHEN Marcus Bent first arrived at Bramall Lane, Nick Montgomery was a fresh-faced teenager more likely to be found polishing the striker's boots rather than issuing him with orders.

Tomorrow, assuming Sheffield United latest signing is thrust straight into action, it will be a case of roles reversed.

While Bent has spent the past decade collecting more clubs than an accident-prone golfer Montgomery, now captain of Bramall Lane, remains very much a one-team man.

But, speaking after his surprise return to South Yorkshire earlier this week, the on-loan centre-forward dismissed claims that the situation could potentially prove awkward for both parties.

"I'm not going to find it difficult," said Bent. "It's certainly not going to be strange for me.

"When I was first here I can remember Monty just coming through the ranks and he's done exceptionally well for himself, developing a very good career.

"He's been here a long time because he's earned the respect of a lot of different managers and he's skipper because he's earned the respect of a lot of different players.

"He's already got my respect so I can't see why anyone would think there might be an issue. Why would it be?"

Bent has progressed as a player since Blackburn Rovers spent more than 2 million to spirit him across the Pennines in the winter of 2000. His comments illustrate how he has matured off the pitch too.

Those who remember Bent's first spell at United, which saw him score 20 league goals in just 48 appearances, will remember a player whose talent around the box was matched only by his propensity for straight-talking and forthrightness. Now 32 years of age, Bent still exudes presence. But now it is mixed with the calm of a man at ease with life both on and off the pitch.

"Times change," he said. "I'm more experienced but, as far as I'm concerned, still young. Of course there are certain things that, if I'd known then what I know now, I might have done a little bit differently during my career.

"But I'm a father now too and I think that changes your outlook on a lot of things."

Given United's predicament towards the bottom of the Championship table - they host promotion-chasing Norwich languishing in 21st place - Micky Adams does not want Bent to entirely lose his edge.

Having captured him on loan from Birmingham, the United manager believes his latest acquisition possesses both the ability and force of personality to help spark a surge up the rankings.

Bent has not scored since a close-range finish for Birmingham against Nottingham Forest in February 2009 but that barren streak, coupled with a desire to earn a permanent contract when his temporary deal expires at the end of the season, means he is doubly determined to be a success.

"If I'm being entirely honest, I've forgotten that feeling you get when you put the ball away," Bent admitted. "But I want to get it back. And I'm sure I will."

Norwich triumphed 4-2 when these two sides met at Carrow Road less than a month ago. Andy Reid and Richard Cresswell were both on target during a controversial contest which proved to be caretaker manager John Carver's final game in charge. Paul Lambert's side have not been beaten in league competition since then.

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