In our weekly Scout feature, Daniel Roberts takes a detailed look at a new emerging talent from world football. Today’s edition looks at Southend goalkeeper, Daniel Bentley.
Born in Basildon, Essex, the 6ft 4in goalkeeper started his career at English giants Arsenal at just eight years of age. Although he was released by the Gunners, Bentley wasn’t without a club for long and returned closer to home when he signed for Southend United in 2009.
After progressing through the age groups and spending a brief loan stint at Conference South side Braintree Town, Bentley was offered his first professional contract at the Shrimpers in the summer of 2011. After an injury to the first-choice keeper of the time, Paul Smith, Bentley began to make a name for himself, although he had to bide his time on the bench once Smith returned to fitness. Another opportunity came in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy semi-final clash against Oxford United. As the encounter edged closer to a penalty shoot-out, he replaced Smith due to his spot-kick saving ability. True to form, Bentley saved a penalty to help Southend win 5-3.
The following season turned out to be Bentley’s breakthrough campaign. In fact, he recorded the club’s second-lowest total of clean sheets for a 46-game season, keeping the opposition out 20 times all together. He continued that great form into the 2014-15 season, breaking the club record for consecutive home clean sheets with 12. He wasn’t finished there, however, as not only did he win all three of Southend’s end of season awards – the Supporters’ Player, Players’ Player and Community Player of the Year – he showcased his penalty saving skills once more, stopping two in the Shrimpers play-off final shoot-out victory against Wycombe Wanderers. Despite constant speculation regarding his future, he has once more carried on his ripe reign of form this term, and has helped his side mount another play-off charge, with Southend currently sitting eighth in the League One, just six points behind sixth-placed Bradford City.
Athletic and tall, Bentley certainly has the perfect frame for a goalkeeper. He is a strong stopper and his distribution is fast enough to mount successful counter attacks for his side. His skill at such a young age is certainly exciting for those nurturing his talent, and current boss Phil Brown has regularly compared the 22-year-old to top goalkeepers such as Peter Schmeichel and Jussi Jaaskelainen. Discussing the likeness, Brown said: “When I was a Bolton, Jussi was one of the best goalkeepers in the country. We had to fend off interest from Arsenal and Manchester United at one point and I do believe Dan will get to that level too.”
A compilation of Bentley’s best saves for Southend.
What the experts say
Southend manager, Phil Brown:
“He’s on the right pathway and if he keeps on listening to the right people then he could well have 500 games by the time he’s 30 and be one of the very best in the country.
“He certainly has a bright future in the game and I want that to be with us for as long as possible.”
Head of Youth Development at the Football League, David Wetherall:
“Daniel Bentley has had another tremendous season (14-15) and it’s fantastic to see him getting the recognition his performances deserve. To set a club record and pick up three end of season awards is fantastic for any professional but to achieve this at such a young age is remarkable.”
Where does the future hold?
Unfortunately for Southend, it is highly unlikely Bentley will be stopping goals at Roots Hall next season. With his contract set to expire at the end of the season, the goalkeeper is set to leave the Shrimpers with a number of possible options available to him.
Interest in the youngster is reportedly high. In the summer Queens Park Rangers saw a £1.25million bid rejected for the youngster, while Premier League clubs such as Everton, West Brom and Watford are understood to be interested.
After he was left disheartened at Southend decision to reject the QPR’s offer, Bentley rejected a new contract from the club, stating: “I’ve turned down a very good offer from the club and I don’t think extending is an option at the moment.
“Everyone knows I’m ambitious and want to play at a higher level if or when possible.”
However, Bentley also underlined that, although he wishes to test himself at bigger club, his main aim is to help his current club enjoy more play-off joy before his expected departure in the summer.
“We want to do well as a group and I’ll continue to give my all for the remainder of my contract and every time I put on the shirt,” he added.
“I have a job to do for Southend and will always do it to the best of my ability regardless of what’s happening off the pitch.”
Danny Roberts – @