Darren Bent has been tipped to bounce back from the barrage of abuse after missing an opportunity to silence the boo-boys during Aston Villa’s frustrating draw at Sunderland.
Manager Alex McLeish and captain Stiliyan Petrov have reminded Bent he is loved by the claret and blue faithful and will recover to score plenty more goals in the future.
Bent spurned a goalscoring chance on his first return to the Stadium of Light as Alex McLeish’s wasteful side twice let the lead slip to draw 2-2.
But Petrov believes Villa’s record signing will put Saturday’s woes behind him despite being shocked by the volume of vitriol aimed at him by his former Wearside worshippers.
“Of course he is hurt by it,” said Petrov, who put Villa in front before his and Richard Dunne’s goals were cancelled out by Connor Wickham and Stephane Sessegnon equalisers.
“He was surprised how loud the boos were but he has proved himself over the years and he will keep scoring goals and we are glad to have him.
“Before the game, we said ‘if you score, you must celebrate’ and he said ‘no, I had a great time here and I respect the fans’, but people don’t realise just how much he respects the Sunderland fans.
“When you have a good time at a club and you come back to face a reception like that it is really painful. The fans were on his back and booing him, but he is a strong boy mentally and he handled it very well.
“With the ability he’s got he will probably admit he should have scored his chance – there is high expectation on him.
“When you score goals and that is what you have always done down the years you expect to put chances like that away.
“They don’t really come much easier than that and unfortunately he couldn’t put it in, but we know about his ability, he is a big player for us and he will score goals in the future for us.”
McLeish joked that he offered to hide Bent on the way to the ground on Saturday – but was delighted with the way the striker confronted his first reunion with Sunderland.
“We asked him before the game whether he wanted to be sneaked in with the hamper,” quipped McLeish.
“I told him on the bus to get in front of me and he said ‘no, no, I’m not going to sneak in’.
“He’s got to take all that on the chin, he’s a young man and he’ll be tougher as a result of that experience.
“I don’t think it’s any slight on him they were giving him the bird because they loved him there and we love him at Villa.
“I would have gone out and confronted the situation, and he did.
“Benty will be looking at that chance and agonising over it. Good players do that. The moment didn’t quite work for him and he’s probably thinking ‘If only it’d been higher’.
“He’ll be the one who will decide that, but he’ll be disappointed at not scoring.
“It was great movement and great positioning to get the chance. He’ll be looking to get that again in the very next match.
He’s ice-cold in these positions. He probably should have six or seven goals by now.”