He was a player that divided opinion up until recent times. Then everyone, including most importantly Stuart Webber, realised he wasn't up to the task. Ben Stokes says goodbye to RyBen.
So, farewell then, sweet RyBen.
The often maligned defender who, throughout his Norwich City career, held the special ability to attain greater and greater levels of Beckenbauer-esque prowess in direct correlation to the amount of time since his last first team appearance.
As Gary Numan prophetically said, 34 years prior to Bennett’s Norwich debut; Time heals nothing, it merely rearranges our memory.
Often hailed as the answer, poor Ryan would usually force you to reconsider the question. Even when scoring one of his two Norwich goals, a late winner no less, against Hull; it was later to be re-evaluated as having helped keep a certain manager in a job longer than perhaps necessary.
As Carrow Road said farewell on Sunday to the more heralded John Ruddy, even Sébastien Bassong – here is my eulogy to the man we knew fondly as: Ryan Bennett.
Let me take you back to 25th May 2015 and the Championship Play-off Final at Wembley. Certain to be an emotionally charged day one way or another, it was punctuated with memorable moments throughout.
Early that morning, quite literally on the road to Wembley, I remember the heartening sight of fans making the journey on Great Yarmouth branded local buses, commandeered as every other form of mass transport in the county was already booked up. A spirit of Dunkirk may be an overstatement so a Rebel escape from Hoth will suffice as an analogy.
The next stand-out moment that warmed the cockles occurred as we boisterously cheered every coach of City fans that gingerly edged its way through the acrid fug of yellow smoke being spewed from a flare, whilst passing the pub car-park where we enjoyed plastic pint glasses of overpriced refreshment.
Then at half-time, scarcely daring to believe what I had seen up to that point, my dear old Dad returned to his seat with a programme for me. I had earlier baulked at the price and also refused to purchase one lest it act as a bad omen. My Dad, who is not particularly a Norwich supporter but initially acted as more of a chaperone that I dragged along to games out of necessity as an 11 year-old wishing to attend my first match, had enough detachment from the situation to see that this was turning into a day which would warrant such a souvenir.
Into the second half and I managed to stay blinkered and not look at the score-board clock until the 82nd minute. As the game moved into injury time I began to let my emotional guard down – carefully placed there as protection against Middlesbrough‘s surely inevitable fight-back to a 3-2 win.
Mike Dean hammed up the moment and elaborately blew for full-time and there was elation, but perhaps not a release. It was then that I noticed Ryan Bennett in particular, an unused substitute, along with other players and staff, come tearing off of the benches and charge onto the pitch with fists pumping in celebration to join his team-mates. It was seeing this, incidental to the other celebrations that were going on, that finally got to me and I began to cry. We’re not exactly talking Gazza here – my Dad didn’t turn to the television cameras and mime for someone to “have a word”. But the tears were there alright, briefly rolling down my face as I applauded the team’s efforts. The visible, unbridled joy of a player who hadn’t even made it onto the big stage that day was a beautiful thing to witness and I am grateful to Ryan for it. It spoke of a togetherness, a camaraderie and it was one of those occasions when you can identify with a player – because if I had been on the bench, right there, right then – I would have done exactly the same.