Darren who? Oh, you mean our ex-striker...
I can't believe how well it's gone. If the offer of an extension came up I'd be more than happy to sign it. It's all about the football up here. It's all passion, passion, passion, but the supporters' intensity has never scared me. They are looking at me to get the goals and that is a massive confidence booster. Darren Bent, December 2010.
So money was not a factor in this move, says Darren Bent. Villa is a massive club, he asserts. With Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, there’s a fantastic supply line. It’s just up to me to work on my finishing and try to put the chances away…
One day we might find out the truth behind all this. But for now Sunderland just have to collect the money, and move on. £24M is a lot for player just 3 years off his 30th birthday, and this has been a shock for the fans. It all happened so quickly. Inevitably, we feel let down by someone who scored so many goals for us, but also a person whose career we got back on track.
He is moving from a club which is 6th in the league, that is well-financed and a picture of stability, with great fans, an inspirational chairman as well as a plan for the future. Bent is moving to a club which is fighting relegation with a manager who is looking decidedly shaky. OK, Randy Lerner is finally opening his chequebook, but that is surely down to a sense of impending doom and panic at the prospect of playing at Doncaster and Scunthorpe next season.
I was there at Villa Park for the game the Black Cats won 1-0 on January 5th, and aside from Bardsley’s goal and Sunderland’s overall performance, what struck me most was Villa’s lack of confidence, which I believe is the real reason why they have slipped down the table. They have some great players, but is Darren Bent the guy to lift the dressing room? I guess if he scores regularly he will have a chance of doing that, but a lot of their problems lie in midfield, where Gareth Barry and James Milner have been replaced by young reserves, and Stephen Ireland has not settled.
Bent had an amazing season in 2009-10, but was then the main striker for Sunderland with Kenwyne Jones misfiring. This season the focus has been taken off him, with Welbeck and Gyan now at the club, and as stated in this blog, his heart has not really been in it recently. It has been speculated that Andy Reid’s absence from the team has restricted the supply of crosses.
Steve Bruce said: It's hugely disappointing that Darren has decided that his future lies away from Sunderland and the players, our supporters and the club as a whole have every right to feel massively let down. The timing is especially hard to take, given that we are progressing positively and are in a great position to push on. Everyone has been nothing but supportive of Darren in his time at Sunderland but it's obvious he's not been himself in training and we've certainly not seen the best of him in games in recent weeks - and we now understand why. I've always stated that my aim is to build a talented, young squad for the long-term to help the club achieve sustained success and I want Sunderland fans to know that our ambitions haven't changed on that front.
Black Cats chairman Niall Quinn added: Darren has now left the club and it's important we move on quickly. We've worked hard in the last 36 hours to get what we feel is a fair price for him. Of course it presents us with significant challenges from a football perspective which we didn't envisage, but we'll deal with it and are working hard to find a solution both in the short-term and more importantly the longer term.
Replacements: Robbie Keane would be good for the short term, especially with the strong Irish connection at the club. Supporters would also take to Peter Crouch. Charles N’Zogbia has been mentioned, but is he a 20-goals a season man? I have always admired John Carew, but he is reaching the end of his career. I am sure we could attract a number of stars from other top European leagues, but there is not long before the end of this transfer window. We need to be decisive and quick though if the club's push into European competitions is to continue this season.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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