Thursday 17 November 2011
It may have raised some eyebrows at the time, but Darren Bent’s record-breaking January transfer window switch from Sunderland to Aston Villa has thrust the striker back into the spotlight and put him in pole position for a place in England’s Euro 2012 squad.
Bent handed in a transfer request at the start of the year and joined Villa in a £24m deal, at a time when Sunderland were in the top six in the Barclays Premier League and Villa were struggling against relegation, lying 17th.
But the 27-year-old helped Villa to retain their top-flight status by scoring nine goals in 16 matches, and this time around he has another three in eight Premier League fixtures with Villa - under new boss Alex McLeish - lying 11th in the division.
In addition, Bent has forced his way back into the England reckoning under Fabio Capello, scoring four times in his last five internationals to cement his place in the Italian’s plans for the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine next summer.
With Wayne Rooney suspended for England's three group matches at Euro 2012, some have tipped Bent to lead the England attack, with McLeish admitting he has been surprised by just how good the striker is since he left Birmingham to become Villa manager in the summer.
"I'm sure I still don't get the full recognition that I deserve"
Aston Villa's Darren Bent
"Darren is a great finisher and has a lot of other aspects to his game as well," said McLeish. "I've been really impressed by Bent's overall play. I used to think he was just a last-third man but there is a lot more to his game.
"He is not a target man as such but he is decent in the air and can hold things up. So he is a much better all-round player than he is given credit for."
Since the summer of 2005, when he joined Charlton from Ipswich for £2.5m, Bent is second only to Rooney in a list of English goalscorers in the Barclays Premier League, yet the striker feels he does not always get the attention his consistent goalscoring warrants.
"I'm sure I still don't get the full recognition that I deserve but as long as I know in my own self that I'm doing as well as I can and that I'm scoring as many goals as I can then that's all I can do," said Bent.
"I've been relatively pleased with my start this season and the team has done well so that's pleasing too, and hopefully we can turn some of our draws into wins as the season progresses.
"I feel 100 per cent in myself now after some niggling injuries and I'm raring to go. I'll keep putting in the work for Villa and we'll see where that gets me."
Bent returns to Sunderland with his old employers three places and two points worse off than Villa in the table after nine games. Having scored 20 goals in 30 league games at the Stadium of Light during his 18 months on Wearside, he will be confident of finding the net once again.