'It was crazy that we didn't win promotion at Ipswich Town', says Derby County's Darren Bent
PUBLISHED: 18:01 08 January 2015 | UPDATED: 18:01 08 January 2015
Darren Bent makes a long overdue return to Portman Road today and could help fire his new temporary employers, Derby County, into the top-two at his former club's expense.
Such has been Bent’s success in the Premier League since leaving Suffolk almost a decade ago, that the 30-year has never returned to Ipswich as a player, with the Blues having languished in the second tier since relegation from the top flight in 2002.
Town did almost reach the promised land in both 2004 and 2005, with Bent and strike partner Shefki Kuqi’s goals nearly making the difference, but it wasn’t to be.
Almost a decade since his departure from Town, Bent, who joined the Blues in 1998 – having been recruited by former scout Malcolm Moore from Godmanchester Rovers – expected to have faced Town much sooner.
“It is surprising that it has taken so long,” said Bent, who scored 56 goals in 141 games for Town between 2001 and 2005.
“We did not get promoted (at Ipswich) in 2004 and 2005 and that was crazy. We got to the play-offs but did not quite make it, which was disappointing.
“Myself and Shefki (Kuqi) were on fire and set up a good partnership, it’s just a shame we didn’t make it.”
Another good partnership formed was Bent’s with Darren Ambrose – the duo used to room together while playing in the youth team at Portman Road and played in the same first-team, before his good friend was signed by the late great Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle.
“All the players who were at Ipswich during my time have left, although Darren (Ambrose) has returned to the club,” added the 13-cap England striker.
“We were always together, shared the same digs, and he was an usher at my wedding, while I was best man at his.
“We lived and breathed football and we would sometimes go up to the training ground in the evenings and jump over the fence so we could kick a ball around.
“Darren was a great player and if I scored 15 goals, you guarantee Darren would have set-up 12 of them.
“I am delighted that he has signed a new contract at Ipswich and I am sure Ipswich fans will see Darren back to his best.”
Bent got his big chance at Ipswich during the ill-fated 2001-02 season which saw the Blues relegated from the top flight, under the leadership of George Burley.
He remained at the club until 2005, also playing under Joe Royle, but it is Burley in particular who Bent speaks in glowing terms of.
“George gave me my debut in the first-team and spent a lot of time with me on the training pitch, helping me improve my game,” he explained.
“Bryan Klug was also a big influence on me, as was Paul Goddard and Dale Roberts, who passed away a few years ago.
“There was also Malcolm Moore who brought me to Ipswich and still comes and watches me play.
“Ipswich will always have a special place in my heart as they gave me the platform to start my career.”