Aston Villa defend Darren Bent transfer conduct

Aston Villa today strongly defended their conduct in the move that took Darren Bent from Sunderland to Villa Park.

Bent's switch to Villa was completed yesterday for an initial £18million three days after the striker put in a shock transfer request.

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce yesterday claimed Bent had been unsettled and Quinn has revealed he feared three weeks ago that the 26-year-old had his mind elsewhere.

But Villa issued a strongly-worded statement today stressing that there had been no "inappropriate approach" to the player.

Quinn said Sunderland had realised they were fighting a losing battle to keep a man who scored 25 goals last season and had managed 11 to date this time.

Quinn told Kildare TV: "I had an inkling. Darren is a terrific guy and he has been great for us.

"He's done loads of work with us for the club over and beyond just playing football. He's bubbly and he's always on great form.

"Two or three weeks ago maybe, I went into the training ground and there was something up with him.

"I looked at his demeanour and I thought, 'It's not right'. Having been in the game, you kind of know when someone's got something going on in their heads.

"It transpired that that's what had happened. They were setting him up to try and come and he took the bait.

"It's hugely disappointing for us, but all we could do then was battle hard and, when the transfer request came in, that was probably the final nail.

"We could have tried to stop it. It was really difficult. The only job left to do was get as good a deal as possible for the club and to start finding a replacement and a solution to the problem he's given us."

Villa today reacted to Quinn's comments by insisting the player did not know about any possible deal until after the 1-1 derby draw with Newcastle on Sunday.

"We understand Sunderland Football Club's need to explain to their naturally-disappointed supporters why Darren Bent has been allowed to leave their club," read the statement.

"It is disappointing, however, that Sunderland should try to besmirch the reputation of the player and Aston Villa Football Club in the process.

"We wish to make clear that at no time did Aston Villa make an inappropriate approach to the player or unfairly compromise the business of Sunderland Football Club.

"Darren only became aware of his possible transfer AFTER Sunderland's game against Newcastle on Sunday and AFTER we had agreed with Sunderland the essence of the deal, which led quickly to Darren's arrival at Villa Park on Tuesday.

"It is only because of some comments emanating from the Stadium of Light that we have felt compelled to respond and set the record straight."

Bent's move stunned the club's fans and left Quinn wondering about the player's ambition after he departed with Sunderland sitting in sixth place in the Barclays Premier League table.

He said: "There will be people out there who say you can't blame him because he will have got a very, very big pay rise to go to Aston Villa.

"I find it difficult because I would have been more motivated to try to get the club into Europe first."

Quinn and Bruce now face the task of finding a replacement for Bent, although the time constraints of the transfer window, which closes on January 31, and the fact that they will receive the fee in instalments and still owe Tottenham a proportion of what they paid for the England striker, will not help.

Quinn added: "We are not going to replace somebody like him perfectly in the next 10 days.

"We are going to try very hard. We will look long term to try to find a solution as well."