Bent bigs up 'brilliant' boss Bruce
Sunderland striker Darren Bent has hailed the leadership of manager Steve Bruce, who the striker believes can lead the Black Cats into Europe. Bent finished the last campaign as a man in form, yet still did not manage to make it on to the plane for what proved to be England's World Cup debacle. Only Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba scored more Premier League goals as the £10million man collected 24 of his 25 for the campaign in the league, rekindling a career which had been going nowhere until Black Cats boss Bruce rescued him from the cul-de-sac into which he had strayed at Tottenham. Twelve months on, Bent will head back into action untainted by association with the disappointment in South Africa and ready to prove once again that he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level. He may still bear the scars of his latest England rejection, but Bruce's faith in him will once again fuel his quest for excellence. Bent said: "He has been fantastic. It had been a while since I had had a manager behind me 100% like Steve is. "He has been brilliant - every time I have scored a goal, he has said, 'He should be playing for England, he should be playing for England'. "He has been the driving force because he was the one who came and got me from Spurs. "When I spoke to him, he said he wanted me to come to this football club. He came and got me, put in all the hours and all the work to get me after the long, drawn-out transfer saga. "It's nice to play for him - and hopefully, I have repaid him with some goals." Bruce smashed Sunderland's transfer record to take Bent to the north-east, something then Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson had tried and failed to do during the striker's days as a teenager at Ipswich. It was a big decision for the player to leave the capital but, having famously pleaded for the chance to revive his career on Twitter, Bent needed little time to settle into his new environment. He said: "It was relatively easy for me to settle. Coming from the bright lights of London, I wanted to come to a place where it was about football and everything else comes second. "To be fair, in the north-east, when it comes to football, it is all about football and that's it. "I am delighted to be here and hopefully I can be here for many more years to come because I feel we are a side that is going in the right direction and Steve Bruce can build a top side that can be challenging for Europe and top-eight finishes." But for a depressing mid-season slump, which saw them go 14 league games without a victory, the Black Cats might well have secured a top-half finish at the end of the last campaign, although 13th place with 44 points represented a significant improvement on the two previous fights for top-flight survival. However, their aims are far loftier this time around. Bent said: "We definitely laid a platform last season. Our early-season form and our form towards the end of the season showed what we are all about. "If we had picked up two or three results in that middle section, we would have been right up there. "It wasn't meant to be last season, but I am sure this season is going to be even more exciting than it was last year." If that is to be the case, it is likely that the bulk of the goals will once again have to come from Bent. Asked if 30, the accepted mark of the very best strikers, is within grasp, he replied: "I'll try. It's going to be difficult, but there's no reason why I can't. "We have got players in the team who create chances for fun, so it's just about me still working hard in training on my finishing and just taking those chances.""
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