Ferdinand rates Bent among the very best
DARREN BENT'S hopes of playing in the World Cup might hang in the balance, but Anton Ferdinand feels Sunderland's prolific striker is on a par with the best in English football. Bent's first hat-trick at the Stadium of Light the first Sunderland player to do so in the Premier League helped bring the Black Cats' 14- match winless run to an end against Bolton on Tuesday night, boosting his tally to 19 for the season. If he adds to that this season he will become the club's first player to reach the 20- goal mark during a top-flight campaign since Kevin Phillips struck 30 in 1999-2000. And team-mate Ferdinand feels Sunderland possess a goalscorer with the ability to keep on scoring at the highest level, particularly now an understanding with Kenwyne Jones is showing huge signs of improvement. Darren is right up there with any other striker in the Premier League. His record in the Premier League shows that. It's incredible really, said Ferdinand. He's up there with the best, but it's not just about the goals, it's his all-round game. It's coming together, and he's coming together as a pair with Kenwyne, which is nice to see. It's like everyone who's English and has a chance of getting into that World Cup squad, all they have to do is keep playing well for their club. If they do that, you can't ignore people doing well. Bent's hat-trick arrived after a pre-match introduction to club owner Ellis Short, with the record buy suggesting the American's visit spurred the team into life. He came into the changing room before the game and said hi, I'm Ellis Short', and I think a few of the players were cringing, thinking, Crikey, we had better do something tonight', said Bent. A lot of people had said, imagine if you lose or if you don't get the right result', but to be fair none of the players were thinking negatively. Pressure had been mounting on manager Steve Bruce during the long wait for a win, with an FA Cup triumph over non-league Barrow the only victory in 17 games. Ferdinand, though, claims there has never been any real fear that Sunderland would be dragged into the relegation zone. He said: I've been in much worse situations than this. When I was at West Ham, we had to go to Manchester United on the last day of the season and win to stay in the Premier League. Situations don't get much more difficult than that, but we survived and got ourselves out of it. This was never anything like that. I don't think we were ever in a crisis. It would be naive to think we're not in a dogfight, and that still applies, but we were never in a crisis and if we continue to play like that, we won't be. Ferdinand, who has performed solidly at left-back, sees Sunday's visit of Manchester City as bringing different challenges, but ones the team can cope with. If we can carry this into the Man City and Birmingham games, the table could look quite a bit different after them, he said. But we have to take each game as it comes and, if we play like we did on Tuesday, I don't see us having any problems. Getting the win takes some of the pressure off a little bit, but we need to win more matches. Skipper Lorik Cana will miss the next two games after collecting his tenth yellow card of the season in the win over Bolton. The Black Cats have had Whitley Bay's 21-year-old goalkeeper Tom Kindley on trial.
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