Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bent on Playing Down the Middle

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bent on Playing Down the Middle

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

DARREN Bent has warned Steve Bruce he will be a reluctant wide man if Sunderland persevere with the 4-5-1 formation that has been the secret of their recent success.

In an attempt to make his side more solid on their travels, Bruce has recently opted for a lone striker, allowing Steed Malbranque to flourish in a deeper free role.

And with the last two home matches against sides of the quality of Arsenal and Manchester United, the same shape has been successfully employed.

With the Black Cats unbeaten using it this season, the system could return for next Monday's difficult trip to Blackburn Rovers. Bruce's record signings of the past two summers are both strikers and one must play out of position - or not at all - if that is the case.

Bent is prepared to sacrifice himself for the team, but makes no secret of the fact he would rather not.

"If I have to play there, I have to play there," said the 26-year-old, hoping to make his first competitive England start at Wembley tomorrow.

"Me being a front man and scoring the amount of goals I do, you want to play down the middle. But if you have to do a job for the team, I can't really complain.

"But everyone who knows me knows I want to play down the middle. That's where I score my goals."

Asamoah Gyan's lack of match fitness has skirted around the issue so far, the Ghanaian still awaiting his full Premier League debut. His only start came alongside the everpresent Bent in the League Cup, scoring in a defeat to West Ham.

But Bruce did not pay Rennespounds 13m for a substitute, and Gyan has a reputation as a formidable lone striker; as the only player other than Bent to find the net for Sunderland this season, Bruce will be keen to get him regularly starting games as soon as possible. Bent (pictured below) has been shifted out to the left in many of his four substitute appearances. …

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