Case made for Villa’s banished man to be top scorer once more

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A new season often means a fresh start for some players as hatchets are buried and bygones become just that.

One such player brought in from the Aston Villa wilderness could be about to kick-start his ailing Premier League career.

Darren Bent is an intriguing 5/1 shot to top the Villa scoring charts after being brought back into the first-team fold by manager Paul Lambert following an indifferent season-long loan spell at Fulham.

In the absence of first-choice striker Christian Benteke – likely to be out until October through injury – the clues in pre-season suggest Bent could be restored as Villa’s attacking fulcrum, supported by Gabriel Agbonlahor (9/1) and Andreas Weimann (8/1).

Benteke remains the 10/11 favourite for the accolade despite his prolonged absence, and if Bent can hit the scoring trail early, there’s a good chance he could forge a decent head start on the Belgian.

Having been forced to train away from the first team as one of the notorious Villa ‘Bomb Squad’ before being loaned out last summer, Lambert has welcomed both the Bent and fellow
renegade Charles N’Zogbia back into the fold.

The England international once scored 24 top-flight goals for Sunderland during the 2009/10 season and if he has the faith placed in him again by Lambert, there are few finer natural finishers ahead of Bent.

The former Ipswich striker became Villa’s record signing when costing the Midlands club £18m from Sunderland in January 2011 and after an initially prolific season-and-a-half – where he finished as the Villan’s top scorer – things soured during a far sparser 2012/13 after Lambert took charge.

Relations between the pair hit rock bottom and Bent was loaned to Fulham for the entirety of last season where he managed six goals in 11 starts, though he did make 13 other substitute appearances.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.