The Monday Profile: Joe Bennett

Posted by on Sep 12, 2011 in The Monday Profile | 3 Comments
One of the chief hazards of being a good attacking full back is inordinate expectation. Take that hogger of Autumn 2010 column inches, Gareth Bale – so impressive were his performances that Harry Redknapp thought he’d give him a go further forward – that trio of strikes in the Giuseppe Meazza had led us to believe that he might somehow be ‘wasted’ in a mere defensive role and that bendy volley at the Britannia made us think we had a multi-purpose talent on our hands.
Injury has disallowed us from making conclusions but with the old 3-5-2 formation favoured by Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle horribly (and perhaps unfairly) out of fashion, the natural career path for a good full back – the wing back role – is currently not accepting new applications. The problem is that you need two of them for balance – Brazil had it with Cafu and Roberto Carlos but England looked lopsided with the cautious Gary Neville on one flank and that clumsy tackler David Beckham on the other – a duo of stars with superhuman alveoli are required to make the plan work.

Hence Middlesbrough’s conundrum with Championship wunderkind Joe Bennett. Here I’ll stick my neck out and say that the Teessiders have a cast iron certainty to make the league’s select XI next April. I first saw him in an utterly wretched 5-2 hiding at the Madejski Stadium in the late winter – but he was cranium and shoulders the best man in the away team that day – despite being only 20 years old at the time.

By his own admission, Bennett likes to support the forwards and says he wants to emulate the likes of Ashley Cole and Gaël Clichy in that regard. He’s energetic as all modern players need to be and yet possesses a real toughness too – it’s true that he’s most eye catching as a support player to raids from the left (his debut in Boro’s last ever Premier League game against West Ham saw him work well in tandem with Adam Johnson) but he can inject vigour into his challenges as well and reminds me quite a lot of another recent second tier man, Kyle Walker – now commanding a first team place at Tottenham.

Bennett is clearly not lacking in confidence – his profile pic on Twitter depicts him bare chested on a yacht like some refugee from Duran Duran’s video for Rio and he also didn’t hesitate to tangle with fiery Gordon Strachan during the Scotsman’s ill fated spell in charge – even asking if he could go out on loan at one point before finding favour under Strachan’s successor Tont Mowbray. 43 games followed in Boro’s horrid 2010-11 but he emerged with his reputation considerably enhanced and England under-21 laurels gained.

Having played the full ninety minutes in the recent 4-1 win over Israel and notched his first club goal in the impressive 2-0 win at Burnley on Saturday, he’s been fundamental in a splendid start to the season for Boro. Unbeaten and having conceded not a single point away from home, the Riversiders seem reborn – and this with a side remarkably little changed from last season. Mowbray has breathed new life into a clutch of fading talents – most notably Marvin Emnes – and even Nicky Bailey got a goal at Turf Moor.

In one of several excellent sources for Middlesbrough news online (check out also Miniboro.com and Anthony Vickers’ Untypical Boro scribblings), some time TTU contributor Mike Baker from Smog Blog has highlighted the aforementioned conundrum. Bennett has featured this season in a left midfield role seemingly to accommodate the inconsistent Justin Hoyte – and although he’s simply too talented not to make more than a good fist of it, it’s a pity he’s not getting a chance to establish himself as a full back worthy of Fabio Capello’s attention. Still, it’s early in the season and this lad is fully in the ‘one to watch’ dossier.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

2 Comments

  1. Lanterne Rouge
    September 12, 2011

    Thanks for your kind words – probably right with Bale!

    Really like the look of young Bennett.

    Reply
  2. Mike Smog
    September 12, 2011

    Great piece – one of the most encouraging things about Joe and his cohort is that they've recently all signed new, long term contracts – the 'next generation' obviously see their futures as being with us, and that's brilliant for our long term prospects.

    Reply

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