It is less than two years since Aston Villa signed Darren Bent from Sunderland for a fee of £18m, rising to £24m depending on goals and appearances. Former manager Gerard Houllier believed he could build a new squad around the prolific forward from Sunderland, and with supply coming from Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, it was an exciting time to be an Aston Villa fan.
Those days are all but a distant memory for the Aston Villa supporters today. Chairman Randy Lerner has had to change his business strategy for Villa, realising that after several years of big spending and players on big wages, his team were still nowhere near where he wanted them to be – challenging for titles.
Alex McLeish was brought in to steady a ship that was leaking in every direction, but the experienced Scotsman had his hands tied, and most of his star players either injured or out of form. The task of resurrecting this former giant is now in the hands of another Scotsman, Paul Lambert. Giving youth a chance to flourish has always been his mantra since making the step into management, and his revolution of an ageing Villa squad has been there for all to see.
The revolution is far from being complete, as there are still several players in Lambert’s squad that do not fit his ideals and ethics. Most of them, like Stephen Warnock, Alan Hutton or Jean Makoun, can be all but forgotten about, left to play in reserve matches or loaned out to teams far and wide.
There is one player though who demands attention. His high wages and star qualities do not allow him to be dropped. This player is Bent, and after his outburst this week, criticising his manager for the decisions he has made regarding his non-selection, it has left Lambert with an unenviable task. Does he reinstate a player that he himself confirmed as captain before Ron Vlaar’s arrival, or does he stick with his policy of giving youth a chance and rely on the likes of Andreas Weimann, Christian Benteke, and Gabriel Agbonlahor to get the goals to drive the club forward?
An on form Bent is a great asset for any team. His 11 goals in his first 17 appearances under Houllier is proof of such. To fit into Lambert’s plan though, Bent will need to change his attitude. Lambert is a manager who believes that every player is equal, that no player deserves an extra chance if they are not performing. Bent’s lack of movement and desire at the start of the campaign was the reason he was dropped for the game against West Bromwich Albion last weekend, as his replacements Agbonlahor and Benteke had both impressed in their appearances previously and deserved their starting place.
If Bent is to win his place back in the side and win his manager over, then he will need to realise that he is no longer a stand out player, a luxury player who can do what he wants as long as he scores now and again. He is a player who is part of a squad, and needs to perform week in week out in both goal scoring and effort if he is to earn his place in the side.
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