Sunderland boss Steve Bruce says Darren Bent missed out on legend status at club by leaving for Aston Villa

Aston Villa's Darren Bent celebrates scoring his side's second goal with Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Aston Villa's Darren Bent celebrates scoring his side's second goal with Gabriel Agbonlahor.
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STEVE Bruce says Darren Bent missed out on the chance of becoming an all-time Sunderland great when he quit the club just 16 months into his stay at the Stadium of Light.

But the Black Cats’ boss says this Saturday’s game against Aston Villa – which marks Bent’s first return since engineering a shock transfer in January – is about far more than one player.

“For me, Darren did fantastically well and no one can deny that,” said Bruce.

“His goalscoring record here was quite staggering and I think you could argue the goals he gave Aston Villa when he left us last season probably kept them up.

“He could have been, in my opinion, one of the greats of Sunderland – and I’m talking about up there with the very best goalscorers in the club’s history – if he had hung around.

“The way he had started at Sunderland, I’m convinced that had he been willing to commit a substantial part of his career to the club, he would have broken a lot of records and gone on to be a major figure in the club’s history.

“But that didn’t happen and it’s gone now – it’s finished, it’s history and we all have to move on.”

Read more of Steve Bruce’s comments in today’s Sportmail.