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Richard Bates - Sunderland count the cost of Bent sale

Published: 18 Apr 2011 - 13:24:49

When Darren Bent completed his move to Aston Villa from Sunderland during the January transfer window, football fans, journalists and even fellow professionals questioned his motives. With the Black Cats sitting in sixth and Villa placed just one spot above the relegation zone, it seemed like the England international had taken a backward step.

Sunderland supporters were defiant, insisting the club had pulled off a masterstroke. As far as they were concerned, it was great business - the fee they were receiving was double the amount they had paid for the former Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur man back in 2007. On top of that, the striker's form was ailing, and his body language was giving off the impression he was no longer happy at the Stadium of Light.

'We're better off without him anyway', became the mentality. Yet, deep down, it was clear this was a sale that nobody at Sunderland wanted to make. Now, when looking at the league table, you can see why. Not only were Bent's goals instrumental in the impressive start Steve Bruce's side had made to the season, but his willingness to work for the team helped to bring the best out in other players.

Following his arrival in the West Midlands, Bent has scored six goals in 11 matches. He has helped Villa to pick up 18 points, four short of the amount they achieved in their opening 22 fixtures. This run of form has helped lift them into the top-half of the table, just when it looked like they were going to face a long, hard battle for survival.

Already, Bent has struck up a great understanding with Stewart Downing and Ashley Young, feeding off all the ammunition they provide him. Watching his performance at Upton Park on Saturday, the manner in which he leads the line is unmatched. His movement causes opposition defences all sorts of problems, while his general hold-up play is immaculate. Most importantly though, he scores in all different ways, something which is clearly reflected in the fact that, from 2005 onwards, he is the Premier League's second highest scorer with 87 goals.

Since Bent left the North East, Sunderland have dropped right down to 15th, accumulating just four points from 10 games. As a team, they've scored just nine goals, with midfielder Kieran Richardson contributing four. Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck had been in fine shape, yet they have not provided the consistency that Bent possesses.

Whilst they'll have no problems staying up, fans will still be left dreaming about what might have been. At the time of Bent's departure, Sunderland were four points above next-placed Bolton Wanderers, and just two points short of Tottenham Hotspur.

It is no surprise that their capitulation has coincided with his exit, and although they may be pleased with the money they received in return, you do wonder how much it is going to cost them to find another proven goalscorer to replace him.DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Richard Bates
Richard Bates is a clued-up, forthright and candid football writer. Every Monday, he’ll be devoting his Football.co.uk column inches to the most talked-about Premier League issues. A West Ham United season-ticket holder, Rich has been accused in the past of having a somewhat blinkered perspective when it comes to his beloved Hammers, but he’ll let you be the judge of that. Follow Richard on Twitter @richardbates_89

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