Bruce knew Harry happy to let Bent go
STEVE BRUCE last night thanked Harry Redknapp for ushering Darren Bent out of Tottenham, and revealed his first telephone call as Sunderland manager was to inquire about the Premier League's leading English goalscorer. Bent makes his first return to White Hart Lane since completing a £10m move to Sunderland tomorrow, and the deterioration of the striker's relationship with his former manager, Redknapp, was a key factor behind his switch to the North-East. Redknapp famously claimed his wife could have scored with a headed opportunity that Bent missed last season, and the England international's desperation to leave north London was apparent from the memorable messages he posted on Twitter in the days leading up to his transfer from Tottenham. Spurs' loss has been Sunderland's gain, with Bent boasting eight goals from 11 matches. And while Redknapp was desperate to see the back of the 25-year-old in the summer, Bruce was every bit as eager to entice him to the Stadium of Light. I made a phone call to Harry within 24 hours of getting the job, said the Black Cats boss, who accepts that Bent's fee will almost certainly rise to £15m on the back of his performances in red-andwhite. He was always on the agenda simply because of his goalscoring record. I wanted a centre-forward who can score a goal, and I've liked Darren from the first time I saw him. From the very first conversation (with Redknapp), we always knew it was on. Whether it was a personality clash and they didn't get on, I don't know, but I'm pleased they didn't because it opened the door for us to sign him. I am not fully appraised of the situation down at Spurs, but what I do know is that we have a very happy striker who wanted to come to Sunderland and the North-East. Bent is likely to receive a mixed reception at White Hart Lane, with some Spurs supporters feeling he was not given enough of a chance during his two years at the club, and others critical of his conduct during his final days as a Tottenham player. Bruce admits it will be a test of character, but insists Bent has nothing to prove despite a record of 25 goals in 79 appearances during his time at Spurs. It is always a surreal experience to go back to your old club, he said. I always found it strange, but I am sure he will adapt. He has nothing to prove because he has done it on the pitch. He is the leading English goalscorer and we've all seen what he's capable of. I don't think he's likely to rile anybody because he's not that type of person, but once a transfer gets protracted, genuine frustration creeps in. I hope there is no bad blood, but whatever happens I think he'll just let his football do the talking. With Jermain Defoe expected to return from suspension, Bent will line up against one of the strikers competing with him for a place in Fabio Capello's World Cup squad. Defoe would appear to be the next cab off the rank after Capello's first-choice pairing of Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey, but Bruce remains confident Bent can pip the likes of Peter Crouch, Carlton Cole and Gabriel Agbonlahor to the fourth striking spot. There's always one player that comes through, he said. Theo Walcott was the last one, and he got in at Darren's expense. I think he (Capello) knows 16 of them, but that still leaves seven places up for grabs. Somebody will come out of nowhere, and I hope for Darren's sake that he gets in. Bent could start tomorrow as a lone striker in the absence of the suspended Kenwyne Jones, but Bruce has hinted that he is tempted to start with Fraizer Campbell in a 4-4-2 formation. Campbell is available after coming through a full training session unscathed, but Bolo Zenden and John Mensah will join Jones, Lorik Cana and Lee Cattermole on the absentee list.
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