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Bruce criticises Houllier over Bent move to Villa


Bruce criticises Houllier over Bent deal

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has criticised counterpart Gerard Houllier in the wake of England striker Darren Bent's £24m move to Aston Villa.

Bent, 26, signed for Villa on Tuesday - two days after handing in a transfer request - with Bruce suggesting their boss Houllier had gone behind his back.

"I'd have liked even a phone call from Mr Houllier, for whom I had the utmost respect," said Bruce.

"We're disappointed with someone of his magnitude, but there you go."

"I would have thought that, out of respect, maybe he would have picked up the telephone to say, 'We are interested in buying your striker'," he added.

"That at least would have given me an opportunity to try to do something about it.

"If you are telling me we gave them permission to speak to him at 8pm on Sunday and it is done and dusted and there's a press conference by Tuesday, I don't think we should insult our intelligence.

"We know in football it happens, we all know what goes on. The quickness and the way it developed was unbelievable."

Bruce's comments come a day after Villa issued a statement on Wednesday accusing Sunderland of trying to "besmirch" the club.

Bent defends move from Sunderland to Villa

The Black Cats boss admitted that Bent's move came as a complete surprise, especially with his club lying in sixth place in the Premier League table and pushing for Europe while Villa find themselves sitting 17th in a fight against relegation.

"I never, ever saw it coming," said Bruce, who successfully fought off Turkish club Fenerbahce's bid to sign Bent during the summer.

"When I first heard about it, I just dismissed it and thought, 'No chance'. I just dismissed it because I didn't think they would get to the levels with the money and I didn't think Darren would want to go.

"I honestly, genuinely thought that.

"But there you go - I was wrong. I can't go along with the thing of [Villa being] the bigger club and [having greater] ambition."

Unlike Bruce, Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn said he foresaw a situation with Bent after noticing a change in his demeanour.

"I had an inkling," he told Kildare TV on Wednesday.

"Darren's a terrific guy; he's been great for us as he's done loads of work for the club over and beyond just playing football. He's bubbly, he's always on form.

"[But] I could tell there was something up with him, that he was not right.

"It transpired that they [Villa] were setting him up. They tempted him and he took the bait. It's hugely disappointing for us, and when the transfer request came in that probably was the final nail. We could have tried to stop it, but we heard he was already down there.

"It was really difficult. A real tough one for us to accept.


"There will be people out there who say 'you can't blame him' because he will have got a very big pay rise to go to Villa.

"I find it difficult, because I would have been more motivated to try to get our club in Europe first - and then say 'look lads, do you mind if I go off' [to Villa]. But that's neither here nor there."

Since 2005, Bent has scored 81 goals in the Premier League, with only Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Chelsea forward Didier Drogba ahead of him in the scoring charts on 82.

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see also
Bent transfer not a surprise for Quinn
19 Jan 11 |  Sunderland
Villa confirm record Bent signing
18 Jan 11 |  Aston Villa
Phillips questions Bent motives
18 Jan 11 |  Sunderland
Bent seals record Sunderland move
05 Aug 09 |  Sunderland
Bent is North East Player of Year
09 Dec 10 |  Football

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