Darren Bent - the �50 million footballer

IPSWICH legend Matt Holland has backed his former team mate Darren Bent to prove he is worth the money after the former Town striker became one of the most expensive English footballers of all time.

After completing his move to Aston Villa, Bent has now had in the region of �50 million spent on him following his decision to leave Sunderland and join a club currently 11 places below the Wearsiders.

The size of the transfer, believed to be �18 million but rising beyond �20 million, appears to put the one-time Ipswich Town hero beyond Rio Ferdinand as England’s costliest footballer of all time – and one of the most expensive in Premier League history.

But Holland, a former team-mate of Bent at Ipswich and then Charlton, believes it will be money well spent if Bent helps Villa move away from the bottom of the Premier League.

Holland said: “Ultimately, goalscorers are like gold dust and Darren is without question a goalscorer. While nothing is guaranteed, they are bringing in someone who has always stepped up to the plate whatever club he has played for.

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“I don’t think anything surprises you in football any more. It might not be that anything was wrong at Sunderland, Darren might have just looked at Aston Villa and their great history and think it is the right time to make a move. If he goes there and scores goals week-in, week-out, they will start climbing the table.”

Holland should know of the striker’s talent having been captain of the Town side when Bent broke through having impressed all as he came through the youth ranks.

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The presenter of Late Kick Off said: “The one thing about Darren is that he is a terrific trainer and put everything in to being the best he could be.

“Darren, along with Darren Ambrose, would always be the first in training at Ipswich and I can remember them smashing balls at 9am. They would still be there at 3pm, when there was a game the next day, and George Burley would have to pull them in. Their enthusiasm and will to get better was always evident so it is no surprise he has gone on to be such a success.”

Bent, who also made big money moves to Chalrton Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur, yesterday signed a four-and-a-half-year deal from Sunderland making him Villa’s most expensive signing of all time.

The striker said: “Aston Villa is a massive club and as soon as I knew they were interested in signing me I wanted to join. The size of the football club and the history of the club are major reasons for me coming here.

“There are some top, top players here too, real quality, and I’ve been able to speak to the manager and the chairman about their ambitions for the club, so I’m very excited about being a part of what we hope to achieve.”

Steve Bruce, manager of Sunderland, insisted the club would move on from the surprise departure of their leading goalscorer.

Bruce said: “It’s hugely disappointing that Darren has decided that his future lies away from Sunderland and the players, our supporters and the club as a whole have every right to feel massively let down.

“The timing is especially hard to take, given that we are progressing positively and are in a great position to push on.

“Everyone has been nothing but supportive of Darren in his time at Sunderland but it’s obvious he’s not been himself in training and we’ve certainly not seen the best of him in games in recent weeks - and we now understand why.”

Bent, who will hope the move will propel him to greater England success, should make his debut for Gerard Houllier’s side in Saturday’s home match against Manchester City.

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