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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Sunderland: Would you welcome Darren Bent back to the Stadium of Light?

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Well 36 hours later and not a lot has changed at the Stadium of Light; Martin O’Neill is still at the club, the team continue to play woefully and fans continue to share their displeasure, this time in the form of howls and boos at the end of the 0-0 home draw with QPR.

Defensively, the Black Cats were solid, with Matt Kilgallon slotting in for the injured John O’ Shea and performing soundly, but it was at the other end where they continued to misfire. Steven Fletcher badly needs the help of a second striker to ease the burden of Stephane Sessegnon and allow him to roam freely, where he is more comfortable.

Louis Saha once again came on late, Frazier Campbell was an unused sub while messes Dong-Won and Wickham didn’t even make the bench. O’Neill obviously has his reasons for not including the duo in the first team squad and has promised to spend in January (providing he’ll still be in a job then), with a prolific striker surely the priority.

So let’s see the potential options.

Gary Hooper

It’s only a matter of time before the Celtic hitman heads south to the Premier League and an England call-up, and we know O’Neill has his connections with the club so it seems like a perfect fit for Hooper, who will be 25 in January. On another note, wouldn’t it be ironic if Hooper were following his current manager Neil Lennon to the SOL this winter – with Lennon stating that he won’t hesitate to leave Celtic Park if the fans’ frustration continues.

Ricky Van Wolfswinkle

A hotshot striker, currently leading the line for Sporting Lisbon in Portugal; RVW is 23, has one Dutch cap to his name, and has bagged 29 goals in 53 matches for Sporting. He has electric pace, links up well with the midfield and is comfortable with either foot. The only drawback is that he recently stated that he’d only consider a move when he receives “an offer he can’t refuse.” One would surmise that Sunderland don’t have that much pulling power in their current state.

BentDarren Bent

This one will surely turn heads as the last time DB and Sunderland were mentioned in the same sentence it was under very controversial circumstances. “Judas” as he is less-than affectionately known by many on Wearside, left the SOL in January 2011, stating a desire to move to a “bigger club.” That bigger club turned out to be Aston Villa, who sit one place below Sunderland in the table with an inferior goal difference.

At the time of Bent’s departure, the Black Cats were flying high; fresh off an impressive 3-0 away win at Chelsea (the latter’s first home defeat since March 2010), and occupying a European spot in 6th place. Bent had temporarily lost his place to then-record signing Asamoah Gyan, who was forming a solid partnership with Danny Welbeck. When Bent returned, he found it difficult to gel with either striker and was no longer the darling of the fans. Whether Bent’s ego was damaged or his head was turned by the lure of more money, by mid-January he was on his way to the Midlands, dreaming of Europe with the Villans.

Black Cats fans gained a measure of revenge when Sunderland beat Villa 1-0 several games later, but that didn’t stop Bent who continued his impressive goals-to-games ratio and remained an England regular.

However, after suffering another injury, and with rumours of a falling out with current manager Paul Lambert, Bent has failed to even make the bench at Villa, with the Scotsman’s first-choice strikers being Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor while preferring to use £500,000 signing from Chesterfield, Jordan Bowery on the bench.

With rumours of a move back to his native London, to join Harry Redknapp’s revolution at QPR, Bent will surely be ousted during the January transfer window. He has also been linked with a move to Sunderland’s arch-enemy Newcastle, which would only play up his role as a Judas to fans of the red and white brigade.

However, with Sunderland crying out for someone to make a difference up-top, and with Bent’s goal every couple of games ratio during his last stint at the SOL would it really be a bad move on O’Neill and chairman Ellis Short’s behalf to attempt to lure the wayward forward back to Wearside?

Calling all Sunderland fans: Would you welcome Bent back to the Stadium of Light? If not, who would you like to see O'Neill bring in to take the burden off of Fletcher's shoulders? Do you still have faith in O'Neill's ability to turn the club's fortunes around? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.


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Colin Illingworth



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