Darren Bent On The Verge Of Becoming Villain

Darren Bent is on the verge of completing a sensational £24million switch to Aston Villa from Sunderland. The England international, 26, arrived in the Midlands for a medical ahead of what would be the deal of the January transfer window so far. The Sunderland striker, who has handed in a transfer request to push through the move, was told the two clubs had agreed a deal after the Wear-Tyne derby on Sunday.

Bent has scored 81 goals in the English Premier League since August 2005. This figure is bettered only by Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney, who have both scored 82 in the same period. A Sunderland statement read, "The club can confirm that it received a written transfer from Darren Bent following Sunday's Wear-Tyne derby match."

Villa owner Randy Lerner has agreed to smash the club's record transfer deal out of sight by throwing his weight firmly behind under-fire manager Gerard Houllier. Fresh from the capture of £7m Lyon midfielder Jean Makoun, the former Liverpool boss has now raided the Black Cats for their prized asset in a dramatic signal of intent from the Midlands club.

Houllier's record since arriving at Villa Park has been little short of dreadful, averaging less than a point-per-game. But this show of strength by the former credit card magnate proves that he is backing the Frenchman as Villa attempt to haul themselves out of trouble.

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is fuming that his hand has been forced on a player who has served the club well since plucking him from the sidelines at Spurs in 2009. It is understood that there has been a cash call made on the Black Cats boss by the club's American owners.

Bruce spent £10m backing his judgement when he signed Bent, who was a reserve striker at White Hart Lane and now is set to turn a massive profit on the England international. However, it will make a huge difference to Sunderland's ambitions of qualifying for Europe and leaves Bruce fighting to maintain the Black Cats' hitherto impressive start to the campaign.

Bent scored his 11th goal of the season in last weekend's 2-1 FA Cup third-round defeat by Notts County, but has managed just two in his last nine games and drew a blank in Sunday's 1-1 derby draw with Newcastle. He enjoyed a sensational first season on Wearside after ending his nightmare at Tottenham, and rewarded Bruce with 25 goals.

The former Ipswich and Charlton frontman missed out on a trip to last summer's World Cup finals in South Africa, the second time he had suffered the same disappointment, but scored his first senior international goal in a 3-1 Euro 2012 qualifier victory in Switzerland in September.

Bruce invested a club-record fee in excess of £13m to recruit Ghana international Asamoah Gyan to play alongside Bent in August last year, but it appears he now faces a fight to keep the pair together.

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