Darren Bent, QPR, Wigan and Liverpool: dreams, projects and £££

Stephen Goldsmith ponders life, wonders whether visiting NUFC or AVFC fans will allow mention of their clubs

As if we hadn’t banged on about Villa quite enough (though we do wonder how many Villans don’t yet know one of theirs won the top prize in our prestigious ”Who are You?” awards), now we’re at it again. Or, rather we’re not, not really. Stephen Goldsmith* – as Goldy – has been a frequent, thoughtful contributor to Comments and simply uses the Darren Bent example as the starting point for a riveting read on the glossary of want-away footballing hypocrisy …

How long will it take, I often wonder, for Darren Bent to make back page headlines before I can read the corresponding articles without instantly associating him with Sunderland, and more specifically his departure from Sunderland?

It was near impossible to make that disassociation when reading his latest comments, to the Birmingham Mail, this week.

“People have asked if I was mis-sold the dream when I signed and if I’m honest I didn’t think Ashley Young and Stewart Downing would leave in the same summer,” he said, undoubtedly reassuring all Villa fans. And just to put their minds at ease, he reiterated that he was happy by declaring: “I was linked with a transfer out of here all through January and I didn’t want that then and I don’t want that now.”

Personally I would translate that as “nobody came in for me with a concrete offer in January so I’m still here”, but then I’m very cynical about such matters.

Addick_tedKevin's take on DB in happier times

Without wanting to cover too much old ground regarding Bent and his reasons for leaving, it did lead me into having a little debate with myself about the terminology footballers use to camouflage their actual reasoning. I often have these debates with my own mind; sometimes, I think, I need saving from myself.

I couldn’t help wondering what ”dream” it was, exactly, that Aston Villa had been accused of mis-selling to Darren here. He can’t be bigheaded enough to think he was going to propel the squad he joined to the upper heights of the Premier League by himself, can he?

It was very evident to all of us that Villa were using the cash from the ambitious (massive club-like) sale of James Milner to fund this transfer, so we can’t be expected to believe that they promised more £20m+ players. It is certainly those types of transfers that would have been necessary to distinguish them from the side that he was representing at the time. The side that was in and around the top seven while Villa were near the bottom. The side that have a similar, if not better, infrastructure and fan base as/than Villa.

Darren Bent’s choice of the word ”dream” immediately cast my mind back to the influx of players at QPR over the last 12 months, and the recurrent use of this word ”project’’. I wanted QPR to be relegated this season for the purely selfish reason that they are probably going to be after the same kind of players as us the summer transfer market.

Our former player Djibril Cissé is one example of a fine player who has made the switch to West London. Upon his arrival he told the official website, ”QPR have a hugely ambitious project’’, and it is a word repeated with apparent conviction by the modern day player when he signs for a specific type of club.

I think we can all expect a host of very decent players turning up at Loftus Road this summer, all declaring how thrilled they are at being a part of this exciting project. I fully expect Michael Owen to come out and talk of the exciting project he is excited to be involved with, at whichever club’s treatment room he ends up at next season.

So what do these words actually mean? A project, or a dream as Darren refers to it, is some sort of footballing vision, if I were to hazard a guess. Some sort of blueprint to where a club wants to be at and the exciting times that accompany that journey.

Now if I were to think of a club that set out with a dream and executed it commendably, I would look no further than Wigan Athletic.

Dave Whelan has lifted Wigan through the divisions and established them in the top flight for the last seven seasons.

They are properly run, and hell they even play attractive football. That’s a project right there. Good old Wigan. So can we expect to see an array of superstars all bulldozing their way to the DW Stadium this year to a part of this project? Of course not, because by project or dream we all know they mean cash.

I understand, of course, that clubs with huge amounts of money can have genuine aspirations of being better and bigger than Wigan. Man City is one project I can kind of come to terms with. Sure, it’s annoying that they can throw cash around like they do but they were always going to have title aspirations from this and make a significant difference to English football. Before they were bought, Man City like ourselves acquired a 48,000 seater stadium and filled it adequately for a club that had served up years of mediocrity.

Those are big club actions without the bottomless moneypit. QPR is the only side that currently has a lower average attendance than Wigan in the league. This is due in part to the capacity of the ground, I hear some say; well no; it just reflects the overall size of the club, in my opinion. No world domination is possible here.

The cash incentive is no revelation when it comes to Mr Bent of course, nobody bought his move as one of pure footballing reasons then and nobody buys it now.

I think I secretly admire his tactics in going on the record to declare his happiness and giving the fans what they want to hear (as he did at SAFC – ed), while subtly letting us all know his pending reasons for leaving as soon as the opportunity presents itself (ditto – ed). It’s not about money or the size of Villa, it’s about broken promises. It’s not about money; it’s about getting back in the England squad. That’s a good one right there Darren: come on, I’m lining them up for you! Maybe I could be your press officer? I would expect generous remuneration, of course, but it’s not just about that. Let’s think of it as an exciting project for myself.

It’s very possible Liverpool will allow whoever is selected from the ridiculously disrespectful and ambitious shortlist of 12 managers to spend big money. If Stuart Downing and Jordan Henderson can be anywhere near the England squad on current form, then Liverpool is an excellent project for anybody. It is more likely we may have to head to Russia, where the clubs are starting to throw absurd amounts of dreams at players. Sorry projects. Sorry cash. Damn those three synonyms.

So our Darren’s statement can go like this:

It is with my utmost reluctance that I have to leave this huge club. On arriving at the club I was promised that more signings would be made guaranteeing our inclusion into the Champions League in the near future. This failed to materialise and once we sold our best players without replacing them, I found it hard to carry on believing in the project/dream (delete as applicable) that was sold to me.

To show my appreciation and respect to the magnificent Villa fans that have showed me nothing but support since my arrival, I have decided to follow my desire of always wanting to test myself in the Russian Premier League.

Ok with you, Darren? That’ll be 10 grand please.

While reflecting on the multiple reasons Darren can give for his imminent departure, spare a thought for his nemesis Asamoah Gyan. I use this term as they often played together with the chemistry of a super hero and his nemesis. To stick with the super hero theme, I will call Gyan Thunder Stealer. We should sympathise with Thunder Stealer as he doesn’t have the potential repertoire of excuses Bent has at his disposal. He declared his love for Steve Bruce, so he has slammed any manager-blaming reasoning for his departure firmly back in his own face.

If Al Ain were to suddenly sell Ali Al Wehaibi or Helal Saeed, then Gyan wouldn’t be able to portray this to the public as an authentic excuse for wishing to leave. “They have cut off the world renowned supply line of Wehaibi and Saeed, what can I do?” Move to the Russian Premier League would be my bet.

There have been many debates I have entered with Gyan as the topic, and in particular any potential scenario that would result in him returning. I have had such debates on this very site. I was always under the impression that if anyone could persuade me that it would be a good thing for him to return, then that would be Martin O’Neill.

Once he retired from international football at the age of 26 my opinion of him and his pathetic sized footballing heart was reaffirmed. I would hope that none of us would ever be hoping that Gyan wishes to return to the project that is Sunderland.

* Stephen Goldsmith on himself:

31 years old. After spectacularly failing to complete a full year of my A-Levels I have worked in lithographic printing since I was 18 and for years pretty much used all my income to fund self-centred activities for years. Used to travel around Europe watching England (wouldn’t be Sunderland would it?) and up and down the country watching the lads. Weekends were made of away games. Away from football was pretty much the same, nights out.
At 28 I started a combined studies degree in English Language/Linguistics and Sports Studies. Perfect I’m sure you agree. I am still a season ticket holder (of course) but am now a mainly home game man. I am also about to graduate. I have recently become a father and am chuffed to be a coach of under-8s who will one day stun the Stadium of Light.

37 thoughts on “Darren Bent, QPR, Wigan and Liverpool: dreams, projects and £££”

  1. Many of those 1.1 million follow cricket over football…or support LIverpool!

    ‘Debating and good natured banter makes football interesting.’ Alas! Something we both agree on! Nice one.

  2. Our training facilties are excellent mate, they are genuinely state of the art. And i said ‘similar’ anyway. The ‘if not better’ was aimed more at fan base. I have already conceded Villa have brought through more youth players though, as stated, i doubt it had any bearing whatsoever on Bent’s decision so didn’t find it relevant to argue over. I really think that if you asked neutrals they would pretty much find little difference in the statures of our two clubs. The article was a humorous take on the modern day player moving for cash and then using the term project or dream. I refuse to believe that you genuinely, deep down believe that Darren thought he was about to join something amazing when he signed.

    Birmingham has an estimated population of 1.1 million (not including West Bromwich) wheras Sunderland has an estimated population of around 200’000 by the way. The rest of our support comes from County Durham, estimated population of 490’000, which is split with ourselves Newcastle and Boro.

    I agree that our stadium lacks prestige but it isn’t comparible to other new grounds at all. It has a lot more attention to detail and features.

    Debating and good natured banter makes football interesting.

  3. The attendances thing is not what has annoyed me. It’s your belief that you have a better ‘infrastructure’ than Villa. Now I have tried to highlight why I take umbrage to this but you have routinely ignored these points. Infrastructure:

    1. I have been to SOL and while a nice, big ground, I find it far too similar to many other new grounds up and down the country. Or boring, to put it another way. Whilst I admit the North Stand at VP is rather dated, VP is a very modern stadium that still manages to capture the heritage and prestige lacking at SOL.

    2. I have not seen your training ground so cannot comment. All I know if Bodymoor Heath is excellent…maybe you can enlighten me?

    3. Infrastructure surely accounts for academy products. Here, there is no comparison.

    Actually, I’m beginning to bore myself now. Thanks for the good natured banter.

  4. Not really, no. You have dragged me away from the theme of the article enough and if anyone is unfortunate enough to be keeping up with this, they are probably bored to tears.

    At no point did i say we had a better Premier League history or, in fact, that we are a bigger club. Have another read if you like. I simply commented that it is a sidewards step pretty much for Darren and if anything we have similar, if not better, fanbase and infastructure. Maybe i should have added ‘in the present day’ to it. Your performances since O’Neill left have not put you on a distinct different level to us in anyway, and vice-versa. The response from me regarding your poor attendances was in reaction to you criticising ours. People in glass house and all that, it’s that simple. I’m apparently ‘obsessed’ (sorry Colin) with Villa, yet it is their fans who are determined to drag me into a petty little squabble over who is the ‘bigger club’. Laughable.

    I highly doubt that Darren Bent was sitting flicking through a book titled ‘The Premier League history and league finishings of Aston Villa F.C’, nodding his head in anticipation whilst his agent was flicking through the contract proposal and negotiating his wages.

  5. Can anyone answer me a question about Martinez the Wigan boss? Why are Liverpool talking to him? He’s taken Wigan to the brink of relegation two seasons in a row. I think Bruce did better than him when he was there. I’m at a loss as to why Liverpool are talking to him now.

  6. Can villa fans not read!? Can’t believe so many have totally missed the point of this article and instantly gone on the defensive with the usual childish arguments about “big clubs” and average attendances. Very mature!

  7. Well there appears to be a storm brewing on Wearside, FTR i agree with ruskin. The average Villa fan has had to stomach gut wrenching football all season. ST should have been issued with a help line number to call.

    But the tunnel is coming to an end and the lights have been turned on. I only hope that MON doesn’t leave you with same waste of space players we had.

    Beware what you sign as many of yours in Jan were brought by Mr Potatohead

    • Just going through the Premier League average attendances from the last ten years. The only time Villa had close to 40’000 was when Martin O’Neill was at the helm. The solitary season you had more than us was the season we finished with 15 points and it was by only 200. We didn’t win at home until the final game that season.

      Interesting how you warn us of Martin O’Neill’s footballing philosophies, of his unattractive football, then use the awful football you have been watching recently being the excuse for not turning up. If O’Neill’s football was so bad then why was his little spell in charge also the the time when attendances were high? Get it right. Contradictions of the highest order.

      I wasn’t even speaking of crowds in the article anyway. I couldn’t help be amused by Ruskin commenting on empty red seats. Coming from a Villa fan. I said we “acquired a 48,000 seater stadium and filled it adequately for a club that had served up years of mediocrity”. ADEQUATELY. If you have produced so much better than us over the years then it makes your lower attendances even more disgraceful.

      This was never supposed to be a ‘my dick is bigger than your dick’ debate. Dreams and projects translate as cash. End of. Doesn’t matter who benefits and who doesn’t, it’s a fact. We have probably done the same thing on a lower scale to a player at some point. Stop being defensive and think about how you reacted to Barry and Milner leaving. Think about the crap Bent will fill you with if he can find a suitor, and wonder what it is you’re getting so worked up about in the first place.

      • I’ve already acknowledged you get bigger attendances and I’ve already outlined reasons why (one-city one region club versus three-city six region club + the economic downturn hitting the West Mids hardest).

        If I could be arsed, I’d compare how many times Sunderland have finished above AVFC in the Premier League. But I can’t be arsed because I can only remember this season and MAYBE one other. So I refer you to this link (premier era only) which should end this debate:


        Enjoy…you’re behind some interesting and massive football clubs…ahem.

      • Jeeeeesus. Mentioned attendances after you brought up our empty seats. As comment below says, read article properly. As I said earlier, objectively not defensively. One city we maybe but compared to size of Birmingham? And West Brom is its own town.

      • West Bromwich was a suburb of Birmingham until the boundaries were redrawn in 1979. It has a significant amount of support in West Birmingham (not West Bromwich) and in other areas of Birmingham.

        You don’t have to compete with any other Sunderland team which naturally dilutes our support in Brum. Unlike Liverpool, Man U etc we can’t rely on daytrippers or plastics coming from Devon etc.

        What about the above link? Any comment, Goldy??

  8. As a QPR fan, I have to admit that the players signing for cash is a good argument, mainly because that’s what the majority of players do these days. The one-club player is such a rare bod that he is only seen on the 29th of February when there is a full moon… maybe.
    It’s life in current professional football, though QPR have had former players (fans) donate money to the club to go towards helping our financial problems of the recent past, eg Crouch and Cook, and we’ve all got players who really would like to carry on playing for the team forever, we’ve had Gallen, Cook and Bircham in recent years.
    The arguments about our small ground doesn’t allow for my being at a match against Leeds in 1974, when 35,353 were in Loftus Road, in the days of terracing, and, of course, Leeds were after winning the league that year.
    Like many clubs, we have a large residual support, many of whom, research says, go to at least 1 in 4 home matches, our 30,000+ turnout to provide the biggest ever away support in Cardiff, suggests the potential, plus, like in the 1970s, when we were pretty good, many newbies turned up at Loftus Road, and we were getting 10,000+ on top of what we have recently seen at the ground.
    Yep, when we get a larger ground, providing we’re playing decent football well, we’ll attract glory hunters, but, if we cannot improve dramatically over the next few seasons, they’ll go back to the European Champions down the road (he says ‘spitting’ like Spit the Dog), if they ever leave them now… I’ve seen so many bloody Chelsea shirts in Hastings today!

  9. wow sounds like you sunderland fans are still jealous he came to a bigger club get over it now it happened a year a go!! he aint all tht brilliant anyway shudve went for benzema for 24mill!!

  10. I don’t dislike Q.P.R. I think it is naïve to think players are signing for you due to anything else but cash.

    I don’t dislike Villa. I was reflecting on Bent’s comments this week and the fact that, in my opinion, he is hinting that he isn’t happy there. I think Villa are a big club but remember that he was stating how much he loved it here so he wasn’t wanting away and the fact he moved from one club to another that are pretty much level pegging in just about everything suggest, no it means, he moved for money.

    People should read things objectively rather than defensively.

  11. What is your obsession with all things AVFC? It’s all rather embarrassing.

    “Before they were bought, Man City like ourselves acquired a 48,000 seater stadium and filled it adequately for a club that had served up years of mediocrity.”

    Hmmmm, how many times have you filled your lego stadium this season? I don’t recall too many 48,000 sell-outs. I do, however, recall plenty of empty red seats. Perhaps, like Birmingham, Wearside is suffering disproportionately in the economic downturn which partly explains this. Unlike Villa, you haven’t had to witness the most dour, uninspiring, ultra-defensive ‘football’ ever witnessed at VP.

    “The side that have a similar, if not better, infrastructure and fan base as/than Villa.”

    Simply put, do one! Infrastructure? Your identikit mechano stadium is nice and big but incredibly boring and a carbon copy of every other soulless stadium built in the last 10-15 years. I won’t even bother comparing training ground facilities or indeed the amount of academy players produced by each club (I can only recall Henderson – great player).

    “The side that was in and around the top seven while Villa were near the bottom.”

    Lovely. Short memories, us football fans. In the history of the Premiership, on points gained Villa are fifth. In the history of footbal in this country, Villa are the fourth most successful team (only Liverpool, Man U and Arsenal have won more). Our highest position in the Premiership era is second…where’s yours? How many times have you been relegated from the Premiership? Didn’t you amass a massive 15 points one season?

    As the other Villa fan posted, I hope you enjoy MON’s one-dimensional football with your Man U rejects who will destroy your club by earning 80,000 a week and winning precisely fuck all.

    • I refer Ruskin to my earlier comment. If people could try to avoid the word ‘obsession’ and its derivatives, the quality of discussion would rise quite quickly. I am even thinklng of blocking people using the word in the context of denying our right to comment on any football issue we choose. I do not recall Villa supporters complaining that we dared to mention them last week, when one of them won the first prize, worth whatever $200 is in real money, in the Salut! Sunderland ‘Who are You?’ awards.

    • Plenty of empty seats, hugely down to the economical downturn. Sunderland has been affected more than most. Still have more than Villa, however, though this is a little off the point of my article.

      The Academy of Light is a five star Uefa rated academy and training facilities. Villa have brought through a lot of youth players. Besides my point again, unless you’re suggesting Darren moved because of this? Colback is in our team at the minute and Waghorn is at Leicester and will more than likely end up in the Premier League again. That is simply to respond to the Henderson thing, nothing more.

      At no point to I criticise Villa as a football club. stand by every word.

      • Academy of Light? Seriously??? Oh dear. Anyway, three players is quite an achievement. However:

        Lee Hendrie, Darius Vassell, Gareth Barry from 15, Liam Ridgewell, Gabby Agbonlahor, Gary Cahill, Peter Whittingham, Ricardo Scimeca, Craig Gardner (Traitor), Gary Gardner, Barry Bannan, Andreas Weimann, Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton, Nathan Baker, Eric Lichaj, Samir Carruthers and Nathan Delfounseo (the last 9 have ALL played THIS season alone).

        I am certain I’ve missed several out. Plus there are countless others coming through. Now that’s an academy of light!!

        And shall we examine why you average a couple of thousand more in attendance? Possibly as you’re a one-city club who can draw on significant support from the rest of Wearside, County Durham, Cleveland and North Yorkshire. On the other hand, Villa are one of three Birmingham-based premier league teams. And don’t let anyone tell you West Brom are not a Brum team. Villa Park and the Hawthorns are actually closer than VP and Shit Andrews and they have a lot of support in West Birmingham. Plus the West Midlands (which includes Wolves, Coventry and Walsall) was hit the hardest in the economic downturn (check the ONS website).

        Why don’t we compare trophy cabinets? Or we can examine your seasons spent outside the Premier League mixing it with the likes of Scunthorpe, if you like?

        I stand by every word.

      • Did I not just say I’m not trying to claim we produce as many as you? You’re determined to get into an argument. As I said, hardly reasons for Bent’s departure is it? Not sure why the turning your nose up at the suggestion our academy.

        I hardly think we have a big support in North Yorkshire. I know people from County Durham who support Newcastle, Boro and us. That was just in response to you commenting on our empty seats anyway. Last I’m being drawn into something away from the point. The grand scale of things, nobody outside of Villa believes Bent leaving was for ANYTHING but financial gain.

        As for saying we are bitter, maybe a little. aimed towards him though, not in any way envious to Villa. I mean Villa fans would never boo an ex player throughout a match when he returned, and be pictured in the media waving cash at them. His new team have just won the league as well so seems a justified move to me. Gareth somebody or other???

      • Agreed on this DB9 is “obsessed”with himself, not much of team player. He is the more the “I” in team

      • One thing I will say about that list is that it is quantitative, but it is hardly qualitative. Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill and, to an extent, Gabriel Agbonlahor are top players, but the majority on that list are average Joes making up the numbers. I find it hard to believe that Daren Bent’s decision to join Villa was in anyway influenced by your own ‘Academy of Light’, rather your willingness to pay him almost double what he was earning at Sunderland. Argue that all you want, you will be wrong throughout.
        In terms of who is the bigger club, it seems a pitiful argument to ‘compare trophy cabinets’. The fact that Villa, like Sunderland, have failed to win a major trophy in recent years renders this argument senseless and futile. Why not compare trophy cabinets with Nottingham Forest? I don’t expect to see Darren Bent heading for the City Ground in the summer. The bigger club is surely the club that has the better infrastructure, stadium and fan base, not to mention league status which is certainly an additional factor. Enough has been said about the infrastructure, however, Sunderland has the better stadium surely? They get consistently larger crowds don’t they? Vila have narrowly escaped relegation this season whilst Sunderland, despite fizzling out somewhat, managed to avoid such a scenario comfortably.
        Villa were the bigger club, they aren’t anymore. Bent took a sideways step in a footballing sense and a forward step in a financial sense, simple. I am bitter about it I don’t intend to deny that. He played his part well and said what Sunderland fans wanted to hear. However, at the end of the day he is a mercenary, and he will at some stage (if the opportunity presents itself) do the same to Villa.

  12. View, ‘in part’ to QPR’s capacity? Try due completely to their capacity. QPR sell out their stadium every week, their capacity is 18200, average attendance 17500. Sadly teams like Wigan and Fulham bring only 200 away fans which drags down the average.

    With a new stadium, which is in the pipeline, QPR’s average will be considerably larger than teams like Wigan etc, who are frankly not ambitious. They have no investment or investors willing to take them above where they are now; a lower Premiership team.

  13. As a QPR fan, can understand your dislike as we are now a club potentially going places with some money. I agree and did not want man city to buy the league title! However, we have been struggling in the lower divisions for some seasons, and have come up fair and square through hard work and little money. The new owners fill me with excitement, because they seem to be genuinely interested in a long term ‘project’ which doesn’t just include signing players but building the infrastructure of the club. Whats impressive as a hoop fan is that they really appeal to fans in as such as ticket prices were reduced, they have listened to fans concern.

    We may be a smaller side in prem but only as we have not been in it for a few years. have you seen any of our recent home games? The support is superb and far better atmosphere than alot of clubs I have seen this season.

    We are not ever going to do a man city but I feel we could have the potential to become an established prem league side-mid table- and will most certainly give your lot a better match next season!

  14. Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing are missing the Darren Bent project because they definitely don’t like the Suarez and Carroll project!

  15. You’re welcome to one dimensional football MON plays, just wait till you get Collins, Warnock and Dunne, to add to another bunch of older bench warming overpaid washed talentless signings this summer Whoop whoop

    • Who’s your manager again? Oh that’s right, you’ve just sacked another after appointing yet another failure. I’ve read Solskjaer has turned you down as well. A manager who as of yet has done absolutely nothing outside a very poor Scandinavian league.

      Who will you turn to? Mick McCarthy? Steve Bruce? Alan Curbishley? Oh to be a Villa fan…

  16. Newcastle fans say we’re obsessed. We say they’re obsessed. We both are in truth and what’s wrong with that? Football would be boring without rivalry? I didn’t actually mention Newcastle here anyway.

    I would I would need to ‘get a grip’ if I couldn’t debate, think and discuss football beyond Sunderland. You missed the ‘Sir’ out of Niall Quinn’s name by the way.

    • Fair enough but why not write something positive about Sunderland instead of having digs at former players and clubs, Bent’s decision was justified the season he left, villa finished 9th in what was considered a rubbish season yet Sunderland and Bruce were delighted with Tenth, avfc and nufc are far bigger teams than Sunderland and no doubt both will be ahead of safc again, maybe not villa but they prob will up top 8 again soon enough.

      QPR will have spent far less than Keane etc and will finish above safc.

      Mon is a long ball merchant at best, average manager for a mid table team.

      Sir Niall Quinn,

      Ps. The article is well written just the content is typical safc ready to go rubbish.

  17. Sunderland fans need to get a grip always obsessed with other teams, total obsession with Newcastle maybe you should focus on your own mickey mouse team and players.

    • For the umpteenth time, and especially for anyone having trouble thinking, this is a football site which is unashamedly partisan but has every right to take an interest in clubs other than SAFC, whether or not the matters under discussion concern Sunderland, too. And just to make the comment above seem utterly absurd, Stephen’s article doesn’t even mention Newcastle in passing.

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