Bent and Villa: a gross act of betrayal, or par for the course?

First things first: a great round of applause for Joan Dawson who, with typically excellent contributions from Pete Sixsmith and Jeremy Robson, not merely kept Salut! Sunderland ticking over while I’ve been swanning around Malaysia but edited the site in such accomplished fashion that she risks being given the job full-time. Secondly, did I miss anything in my absence? …

How was I to know that once my back was turned we’d gain David Miliband and lose Darren Bent? Not to mention a bitterly disappointing performance against Newcastle. Let us hope for DM’s sake that he is not being judged on early results.

News travels fast enough to ensure that I was not allowed to escape knowledge of these events. In fact, Salut! Sunderland having its sources, I knew in Penang of the Milliband appointment some time before it became public in the UK; the Bent bombshell reached me as a nasty little one-liner along the bottom of the screen on BBC World.

Flying back to the UK today, I kept a pinch of salt handy as I read Bent’s press conference bleatings, especially the bits about how brilliant our fans had been towards him and how sad he was that it had ended like this. I also read without the least enthusiasm the crop of names mooted as possible replacements.

Maybe no one in football owes a jot of loyalty to anyone else these days. Players and managers get precious little from clubs so why should they give any to the clubs? And we all try to better ourselves in life, whatever we do to earn a crust.

Even so, the feeling of betrayal is deep enough. It seems only five minutes since Bent was collecting a sportwriters’ award – North-eastern player of the season – with words that suggested he was here to stay, loving the region, relishing the goals he was scoring and determined to make himself as revered a figure as such strikers as Clough, SuperKev and – whisper it – Shearer. If reports are to be believed, it cannot have been very long after he wrote that little speech that he was composing a transfer request.

Maybe it was all our fault for not realising that a four-year contract like the one Bent signed with SAFC in 2009 actually meant four minutes or weeks or months or however long it might take to formulate his first written demand for a move.

And it could be that the references to loving being at the club should now be seen as no more than a decent man’s attempt to be kind the the supporters (and staff and fellow players) of a club he was already plotting to leave.

In one sense, the row between SAFC and Aston Villa hardly matters. If he had already banged in his demand on Friday – a day on which he ought to have been busy on the training ground, working out how not to miss two or three good chances against the Mags – it is irrelevant that the Villa bid was not made until after the derby.

But CSB, in a comment to another posting, is right to say we could do with a full chronology of the transfer so that we do not unjustly condemn the player or Villa. I also want to know the history of his unhappiness at Sunderland: when did it start, why, what did the club do to answer his problems and so on?

Without such detail, we cannot know all that has gone on between Bent, on the one hand, and Bruce/Quinn on the other. The Journal talked about a devastating breakdown in relations. That could be no more than a euphemism for “wanting a shedload of money over and above the deal he’d accepted 18 months earlier”. I’ve seen £35,000 quoted as his weekly wages at the Stadium of Light, and £80,000 as the amount Villa were willing to pay. Whose head would not have been turned by the knowledge, however and whenever conveyed to him, that such money was on offer?

The truth is that SAFC seem on the face of it to have done some good business here, save that anyone we buy may well be a lot less effective than Bent was last season – and come with an inflated asking price. But Bent is not the player this season that he was last time. And being part of an exciting three-pronged attack, sharing the glory, appears to have been less to his liking than scoring all our goals.

I doubt whether the full story will ever be told in a form everyone accepts as fair and accurate. And the sense of natural justice therefore persuades me to give a little benefit of the doubt to Bent.

But I canot help harbouring the mischievous hope that he falls flat on his face at his new, smaller, currently less successful club and that they go down unceremoniously into the Championship, relegation confirmed on the same matchday that we clinch a place in Europe.


Monsieur Salut

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30 thoughts on “Bent and Villa: a gross act of betrayal, or par for the course?”

  1. There is no loyalty in journalism, football and even family, as sometimes exhibited in the UK.
    It was rather naive, if not insulting and cheap, to pay the Premier’s most consistent English goalscorer 35,000 a week, in the current ‘market’.
    Villa have a plethora of chance suppliers in Young, Downing , Albrighton, and Bannon and we’ve been desperate for an out and out goalscorer for three years. If they heard one of the best was susceptible to an offer and were prepared to make sure their offer was accepted by the player and club, isn’t that simple good business?
    That said, I’d have thought 15m would have been a more realistic fee.
    As has been said, Sunderland did not have to accept the offer and the same goes for Mr Bent.
    Steve Bruce is hardly the role model for loyalty given how he’s moved around in management.
    We may lose A Young to something like this, but the Bent signing may have made that a lot less likely which, again, I’d have thought is a good way to run a business under current ‘rules’.

    Brendan

  2. Agreed Pete. I think signing Fuller is a great move especially in the circumstances. He will give everybody a boost with his energy and enthusiasm, especially the two strikers.

  3. It looks like Fuller – a real beast of a player who will hopefully link up well with Gyan.
    As for Villa, I have no problems with them or their fans or Bent. He’s gone, that’s it, let’s get on with our sad little lives that allow us to get so upset and agitated when a footballer moves from one club to another. In the whole great scheme of things it ain’t worth a hill of beans.

  4. Bood idea Mick .
    Adebeyor would indeed be ideal, but we already have the two loanees allowed from Premiership teams…Onuhoha and Wellbeck. Can we could send Wellbeck back now that he is out for eight weeks?

    Personally can’t see Adebeyor fancing life in the North East even on ashort term basis. By what the press are saying it looks like Fuller which would be ideal as cover for Gyan . But ng we also need to get a couple of attacking midfileders in. I think Tuncay would be another good short term signing

  5. Time for a deep breath and a bit perspective on the whole issue. Professional footballers will nearly always go to the highest payers. I`ve watched the game for more years than I care to remember (Blackpool away 1957 my first away game – you can research the result if you like – Mr Hurley`s debut) and football has always been the same. Darren Bent has made his decision and I wish him well. He was never the best footballer at our club and managed wisely I feel we can move on to better things without him. All this bitching and name calling between fans, and more alarmingly the two clubs management is verging on the childish. I`ve always found the Villa fans friendly and welcoming on my visits to the midlands. I sure wouln`t want Bents departure to sour all that. Move on everyone and, whoever wears the red and white shirts on saturday, get behind the lads. The next match is always the most important.

  6. from a neutral fan here dont blame anyone in this situation but bent and more so his agent,Bent couldnt give a toss for sunderland and even better couldnt give a toss for villa,On saturday he may score run to the holt end and kiss his badge,the villa fans will adopt him as there new hero until someone like man city come knocking then its transfer request time all over again.if i were bruce id bring in adebayor on a 6 month loan and find a replacement in the summer

  7. I believe that we have a good right to feel let down by Bent. If his four year contract said he was getting £35k a week he should have honoured that agreement until it was due to run out. The time to start renegotiations is in the last year of the contract.
    £24 million representst good business providing we can use it to but suitable replacements( eg Muntari, Seessegnon,Nzogbia and another forward). But who will sell at the moment ? Certainly no one in the Premiership will part with a proven goalscorer at this time in the season. We might have to accept a Bothroyd,Fuller or Lafferty because it’s all we can get. Timing is everything and Bents’s has been disgraceful. As a result we lose aproven goalscorer and are now at a severe disadvanatge in the transfer market I also do not believe that Villajust thought on Sunday ‘let’s buy Darren Bent….oh my goodness he has just put in a transfer request’ and then on Tuesday he was signed sealed and delivered. Sorry if i I sound cynical but….

  8. Jeremy says:
    January 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm
    Never relegated from the Premier League. I remember Villa in the Second Division when I was a kid.

    Some people seem to think there was no football in England before 1992 or whenever the cartel was introduced.

    ———————————————————-

    Proves your an idiot! when did the premier league start you douche……drum role please…………………………………………………………………………………………………….1992/93!

  9. Dave said. “I certainly wouldn’t wish injury to any player”

    You are clearly a better man than me Dave.

  10. Never relegated from the Premier League. I remember Villa in the Second Division when I was a kid.

    Some people seem to think there was no football in England before 1992 or whenever the cartel was introduced.

  11. I have no problem in admitting that this whole episode has brought the worst out in many Sunderland supporters. As for Villa fans, you’ve got to be dreaming if you think you’ll be challenging for a top 4 spot next season. We could argue about which club is the biggest for hours, the simple fact is as Sunderland supporters we know what its like for our club to perform poorly and we’ve had the worst case scenarios play out a couple of times in the past, but we’ve stuck by our club. No club is untouchable if the team is failing to perform which is exactly what is happening at Villa. So, yes bunches and bunches of Sour Grapes!!!! I wish Villa and Bent nothing but the worst luck imaginable!!!

  12. As an ex pro myself(very low level!)l,after being mucked around by “pro” clubs,who lie,stall on talks,withdraw contract offers,and see every player as a walking pound note,I have a different point of view, Why have loyalty to an organisation that will drop you like a stone if it suits them?They (the players) have to pay lip service to the fans and profess love for their respective clubs otherwise their life is made pretty much unbearable by the supporters.Not one player loves his club, Its work,enjoyable yes, but still work.Clubs are interchangable,They all are utterly ruthless concerning players,when a better “model” comes along,So dont blame Bent for a lack of loyalty,Its a job …simple as,and you try and better yourself.

  13. I thought that Bent was better than the average player in terms of his club loyalty, but I was clearly mistaken, so onward and upward.
    There is now a great deal of talk about finding a like for like replacement; in my view we need to aim for a more balanced team with greater threat from midfield. Sure, we need to get another top class striker, but I agree with Quinn that this appointment should be a more physical player capable of linking with Gyan (who is shaping up well) and providing a platform for a threatening midfield. In this sense, the Bent transfer, at the fee obtained, could well be a blessing in disguise with a stronger team emerging as a result, especially if we are successful in attracting Muntari and N’Zogbia in this window, and possibly Pavlyuchenko in the summer? Welbeck in addition would be the icing on the cake. Time will tell, so let us move on with our ambitions set at a top 6 finish.

  14. Bruce has never jumped ship at all has he?? He has had 7 managerial jobs in 13 years and jumped ship from Wigan (twice), Crystal Palace and Small Heath. I think Mr Bruce is a hucking fypocrite.

  15. Bent has sealed his pension a 4 year deal at Villa at more than twice the money will get him to 31 an age when most strikers start to decline. If this is the case does it show lack of ambition? There is no doubt if Bent was offered at 24 million there would only be Villa interested. They are up the creek without a paddle and although the pundits say they have a good team they have been unable to score. Bent could solve that problem but he has to be number 1 kiddie and his ego has to be massaged daily, this is were the problem lies he has social leproudy and can’t get on with people he lives in a world where only he matters. It maybe good business but we will battle to replace him adequetly

  16. THE founder member of the football leage (google William McGregor)
    Founder member of the Premier League
    Never been relegated from the Premier League
    Fourth in the all time honours table
    Avergage League Position in the Prem = 6th
    Average League Position over all time = 5th
    More seasons spent in the top flight (101) than any other club bar Everton (106)
    Had more England representatives than any other club (67)
    One of only 4 English clubs to have won the European Cup
    Did I say never been relegated from the Premier League?

    The only stat you win based on last season is average attendance:
    SAFC = 40,355
    AVFC = 38,735
    But when you consider SAFC is a one city, one region club (Villa compete with BCFC and WBA in the same city) then that is not all that surprising or impressive.

    The only thing I remember Sunderland for is SAFC 4 – CAFC 3…and that was a play-off game…never played in one of those.

    So, please tell me, who is the ‘smaller, less successful club’? I used to think only the Geordies were this deluded up your way.

  17. As a Villa fan I actually feel your pain. After all we lost (in successive windows!!) two of our best players, one of which had some how manged to replace the first, and both went for “footballing” reasons to a club who also happened to be offering them upwards of 90,000 a week.

    Now, i’m not saying two wrongs make a right, but is there really any loyalty in football these days? It’s not nice seeing Villa being portrayed in the same way that we all saw Liverpool and then Man City for turning Barry and Milners heads.

    I cannot blame you for hoping he gets injured or fails to score, I wished the same for Milner and Barry when they left.

    I for one hope you do well this season, and the loss of Bent isn’t too bad.

    Thanks and all the best.

  18. I certainly wouldn’t wish injury to any player, however I do hope that he does not succeed and struggles to perform. I honestly believe it is a shocking betrayal to a club who supported him so well. I don’t know why any footballer kisses their shirt badges as it really means nothing, it’s just a show for supporters. It seems that money and only money counts to the modern day footballer, and it’s only a matter of time before the supporters of all clubs decide ” why am i paying for these guys to play for our club when in essence they don’t give a toss about us or the club” at which point the whole outlook of football will change.
    The money received for bent will only be a good deal if we can find someone as good for the same money or less, and is actually interested in playing for the good of the club rather than just the money! Does he exist?? who knows but I doubt it!

  19. “new, smaller, less successful club”

    That’s brilliant. Smaller and less successful? Because SAFC are currently 6th in the league, this makes you a bigger club? What other stats do you have to go on? You’re what? 9 points a head of AVFC, this is the closest season we’ve seen in years. 9 points seperates 6th and 16th..

    This season is a write off for AVFC, it’s a building season. If you want to make a judgement on the club, do it next season when we’ll still be in the premiership breaking into the top 4 like we’ve threatened for the last 3 seasons.

    SAFC didn’t make Bent the player that he is, he worked well with the players you have. You’ve made a nice crust out of him and will be able to re-invest it wisely so long as old hypocrite potato head doesn’t go and nause it up.

    Don’t be bitter, be glad you ever had a player of his stature play at a club like Sunderland.. 🙂

  20. Lets be honest about it, if someone offered you a 25K a week rise would you just say “No thanks, I am happy where I am”. Its just the way of the world

  21. I completely agree with your closing remarks. I find this type of disloyal act the worst thing a player can do. I actually hope de Jong goes straight through him at the weekend and injures him for the rest of the season.

  22. Thought better of the bald “less successful” and made it “currently less successful” as you will see and as is amply borne out by respective league positions. I am always the first to acknowledge that while SAFC have won lots of top flight titles, most of them were in the last century but one.

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