Darren Bent Loan to Brighton and Hove Albion Offers the Striker Career Salvation

Jack Lusby@jacklusby_Featured ColumnistNovember 26, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24:  Substitutes Kieran Richardson and Darren Bent of Aston Villa (R) look on from the bench prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park on November 24, 2014 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

With wayward Aston Villa striker Darren Bent joining Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion on an initial one-month loan deal on Wednesday, this gifts the former England striker a chance at career salvation.

According to Seagulls.co.uk, the 30-year-old has joined the East Sussex side "until the end of December."

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31:  Darren Bent of Aston Villa fails to score under a challenge by Paul McShane of Hull City during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Hull City at Villa Park on August 31, 2014 in Birmingham, England.
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The site continues to quote manager Sami Hyypia as identifying that "three years ago he was a regular in the England squad under Fabio Capello; there is no doubting his ability to score goals."

However, Bent's stock has fallen since that fruitful period, and the striker said, again per the Seagulls' official website, "It was no secret I wasn't getting much game time at Villa. I wanted to go and play football."

Bent has made just seven appearances for Villa in the Premier League this season, all from the substitutes' bench, with this totalling just 78 minutes.

"Given opportunities and playing time I've always managed to score goals and hopefully it can continue,” the striker continued.

It may seem a huge step down from the BBC Sport-reported £18 million transfer (£24 million with add-ons) to Villa Park almost four years ago, but Bent must be pragmatic and use this loan opportunity to rebuild.

LONDON - DECEMBER 30:  Darren Bent of Charlton Athletic celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premiership match between Charlton Athletic and Aston Villa at The Valley on December 30, 2006 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Darren Bent

In the pantheon of striking archetypes, Bent is the essential poacher.

The former Ipswich Town man's career can be judged purely on goals, and for the most part Bent has contributed with aplomb at every club he has played for.

According to SoccerBase.com, at Ipswich, Bent scored 47 goals in 122 league games; at Charlton Athletic, 31 in 68; at Tottenham Hotspur, 18 in 60; at Sunderland, 32 in 58.

The striker offers little in terms of build-up play, technical nous or tactical flexibility and is barely in the game when the ball is not in the 18-yard box. Bent relies on movement and service.

During the 2011/12 season for Villa, it was revealed, per the Mirror, that "Bent averages just 24.6 touches per Villa game."

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22:  Darren Bent of Aston Villa (L) celebrates with team mate Matthew Lowton after scoring during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Aston Villa at St Mary's Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Southamp
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In a 2-1 loss at home to West Bromwich Albion, for example, Bent registered the least touches with just 17 but still managed to find the scoresheet, according to data provided by Opta.

With the modern game developing to demand more from the typical forward, and the endurance of England's workhorse Wayne Rooney evidence of this, strikers of Bent's ilk are a dying breed.

However, goals are understandably still considered a premium within football—no side wins without them, naturally—and teams bereft of them on a regular basis, such as Brighton, will always be interested in a player with the reputation of Bent.

What Hyypia will be mindful of, and should look to nurture in tandem with Bent himself, is that the striker has lost his goalscoring touch in recent seasons.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11:  Paul Lambert of Aston Villa looks on as Darren Bent leaves the pitch during the Capital One Cup Quarter-Final match between Norwich City and Aston Villa at Carrow Road on December 11, 2012 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by J
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Lost Touch

Compared to his impressive strike rates at the aforementioned sides, Bent's current rate of 21 goals in 61 games at Villa, and a dismal rate of three in 24 on loan at Fulham, outlines the drop-off in form seen in the striker.

When utilised, Bent no longer seems to react on the instinct that he previously employed so effectively, and as a result his goalscoring has slowed immensely.

Without this, the striker is a rather redundant selection for Villa manager Paul Lambert.

Gary Johnson of Metro claims that money is behind the striker's downfall, with his various moves seemingly stunting his progress.

Sunderland fan Johnson writes that "it’s strange how money can effect even the most prolific and loved [Sunderland] forward since Kevin Phillips but it just goes to show that money is not always the only path towards progression."

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Darren Bent of Sunderland celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers at the Stadium of Light on January 1, 2011 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/G
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

After scoring 32 league goals for the Black Cats, Bent left for Villa after just a season-and-a-half.

However, with former manager Alex McLeish and now Lambert relying on the pacey, counter-attacking prowess of forward options Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, as well as the all-round technical play of Christian Benteke under the latter, Bent's progress has halted.

Facing a substitute's role at best, Bent is right to move on at this juncture.

HUDDERSFIELD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21:  Brighton manager Sami Hyypia during the Sky Bet Championship match between Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion at Galpharm Stadium on October 21, 2014 in Huddersfield, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty I
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Salvation at Brighton

As mentioned previously, Bent fits the blueprint of what Brighton have been so desperately searching for this season: a striker that finds the net with regularity.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04:  Sam Baldock of Brighton shoots wide as James Perch of Wigan looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Wigan Athletic at Amex Stadium on November 4, 2014 in Brighton, England.  (Phot
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

So far in 2014/15, Sam Baldock, Chris O'Grady, Adrian Colunga and Craig Mackail-Smith have registered just four league goals between them, with the latter now linked with a loan move to former club Peterborough United, per The Argus.

Utilising the invaluable loan market to acquire Bent will be a masterstroke if the striker can accommodate for these deficiencies.

The Sussex coast is the perfect opportunity for the former England international to rediscover his goalscoring form, and clearly this will benefit both parties.

While his reputation will clearly lift both the Seagulls' squad and their fan-base, his performances can go even further.

If Bent hits the net at The Amex at the rate he was once renowned, Hyypia will relish his side reaching the form that his calibre of squad are capable of, and the striker will begin to repair his diminished value.

It is an unlikely outcome, but the desperately profligate Villa could possibly find a place in their ranks once more for a rejuvenated Bent.

For the time being, however, Bent must focus on impressing at Brighton.

Darren Bent may no longer be the striker he once was, or was feted to be, but the new Brighton and Hove Albion man may have appeared in the right place at the right time once more.

Statistics via WhoScored.com unless otherwise specified.

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