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By ESPN Staff

Bent determined to stake England claim

Darren Bent has vowed to finally kick-start his England career - after agonisingly missing the chance to become a hero for his country 12 months ago.

The Tottenham striker has made only one starting appearance for England, against Uruguay ahead of the 2006 World Cup finals, under Sven-Goran Eriksson.

But it could have all been so different had Bent converted the opportunity that came his way during the dying minutes of the Euro 2008 qualifier with Croatia at Wembley last November.

Bent came off the bench as one of the last throws of the dice by then manager Steve McClaren with England losing 3-2, and fired over the bar when a draw would have taken them through to the finals in Austria and Switzerland last summer.

That memory remained with Bent for some considerable time and was coupled with the frustration of not being given a regular starting place at White Hart Lane under Juande Ramos.

But Bent is now back in the England squad under Fabio Capello for the first time for Wednesday's friendly international with Germany in Berlin.

It follows a prolific spell for Bent at the start of the Harry Redknapp era at Spurs, including a hat-trick against Dinamo Zagreb in the UEFA Cup.

Bent said: "I have strong memories of what happened against Croatia. I remember coming on and late on I had a half chance, which unfortunately I put over the bar.

"People say I could have been a hero that night and for the entire nation it was a massive disappointment not qualifying for the European Championships.

"It was something I thought about for quite a while. As a striker you do ask yourself 'could I have done something differently?'

"My international career as a whole suffered a lot last season by being on the bench a lot at Tottenham and not playing as many games as I would have liked.

"It was a bad time for me because you are getting left out of major games.

"But I am back now and I am looking to kick-start my England career. I haven't played as much as I would have liked for my country."

Bent added: "I actually made my debut before the 2006 World Cup but never went to the finals. I scored a lot of goals for Charlton that season and to not go to the World Cup was really disheartening.

"Over that summer I was gutted not to be there. I wished the boys well and wanted them do as well as they could but I was really disappointed.

"I used the following season as a positive to try and push on and make me a stronger person and it is important I don't miss out on the next World Cup."

Bent is quick to acknowledge the part played by Redknapp in reviving his career at Spurs after the exit of Ramos.

He said: "Harry has come in and shown a lot of belief in me, told me I was a fantastic player who was going to play a lot of games this season, and I've managed to bang in a few goals.

"He has been a massive influence. Under Juande, it was quite difficult at times and the structure of the team was quite difficult and we weren't playing as well as we could do.

"Harry has come in, has kept it simple and it has been no coincidence that results have turned around and we have started to perform."


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