Bent sets double figures Blades target

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Marcus Bent is aiming high on his return to Sheffield United - by refusing to lower his traditional double-figure goal target.

It’s the 14th move of the nomadic striker’s career, his second spell at Bramall Lane after rejoining the Blades on loan from Birmingham and the third time he has linked up with Micky Adams.

But one thing has never changed. Bent, as journalists recall from his first stint at United more than a decade ago, developed a stock answer to how many goals he might get in a season.

When I posed the question this week he was ready for it. “I knew you were going to ask me that,” said the 32-year-old marksman.

“It always used to be double figures - but first of all I’ve got to get match fit.

“I’ve got to grow into it. I can get match fitness by playing three or four games. Hopefully then I’ll be cracking them in.”

All the same, Bent has less than half a season to make an impact - so would it be unrealistic to set a target?

“No, it’s not unrealistic. Hopefully I can get double figures.”

It’s a tall order from what is a maximum of just 20 games - a ratio of one in two, in fact - but there is nothing wrong in setting high standards, even though it is nearly two years since his last goal. It is a measure of Bent’s appetite for the challenge and his delight at an opportunity to reinvigorate his career.

Last time, remember, he hit 20 goals in 48 appearances and, having joined for just £300,000 from Port Vale, departed for seven times that amount in a £2.1m switch to Blackburn.

It was money United could not afford to turn down during the formative stages of Neil Warnock’s reign and, in fact, it ranked as good business even though Everton, Ipswich and Charlton subsequently paid more.

Now Bent, set for a debut against Norwich on Saturday, rejoins the club in a similar position to his original arrival in 1999 - fighting the drop from the second tier.

Another throwback is the nature of the club’s management, which adds to Bent’s confidence about an equally successful outcome.

“There are similarities between Neil Warnock and Micky Adams, who I know well having played for him at Leicester and briefly before that at Brentford,” he said. “ They are both passionate and hard working.

“And in both cases, their man-management skills are brilliant.

“They are second to none at bringing the best out of players. You couldn’t get anybody better for the situation United are in now than Micky.

“I know there is talent and togetherness at the club. The players are up for the challenge and I’m sure they’ll get out of it. I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t think the squad was good enough.”

Bent accepts that, as an experienced player, he is “under more pressure now” than in his first spell - but with 110 career goals behind him, he hopes to thrive on the responsibility.

As with Adams’ previous Premier League loan signings - defenders Joe Mattock (West Bromwich) and Shane Lowry (Aston Villa) - there is the incentive of earning a permanent move.

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