Bent dedicates his equaliser to 'passionate' Houllier

Aston Villa 1 Stoke City 1

Darren Bent again demonstrated why Gérard Houllier lavished as much as £24m to bring him to Aston Villa, before revealing that the stricken manager contacted him from his hospital bed to urge him to excel against Stoke City.

The time was 12.45, shortly before acting manager Gary McAllister conducted the team meeting. Bent, checking his text messages, found one from Houllier telling him to "keep going". While he was touched by the gesture, and later dedicated his seventh goal in 12 Villa appearances to him, the England player viewed it as symptomatic of a character possibly too consumed by football for his well-being.

"He won't let it go and that's just him," Bent said. "He's passionate about his football. But hopefully he realises there are times when your health comes first. It was shock to hear he was ill because I saw him the day before [Houllier was admitted to hospital complaining of chest pains] and he looked fine.

"A lot of the lads were down when they heard what had happened to him. For me, being his signing, it was extra important to play for him and try to get a result. He took a gamble paying big money for me when the club were near the relegation zone. I'm hoping he'll be back before long. With his determination, I'm sure he'll want to get back."

Bent has targeted a top-eight finish for Villa this season and hopes his goals will enhance his international opportunities. "I can't score many more than I did last season [25 for Sunderland], and it still wasn't good enough for England. All I can do is keep working and improving, and hopefully [Fabio] Capello will keep picking me."

McAllister, whose faith in his own ability has survived a bruising sacking by Ken Bates at Leeds, is confident Houllier will resume active service.

"I know what type of man he is. He spent time with the French Federation, pushing a pen around a desk, so I know what he loves and where he wants to be. And that's on a training ground every day, with the players."

Brad Friedel thwarted Stoke before Kenwyne Jones' aerial power put them ahead. Bent's glancing header gave Villa fresh impetus, yet Rory Delap, again a goal-maker from a throw-in, explained that the FA Cup finalists were never likely to soft-pedal towards Wembley with Tony Pulis in charge.

"If you ease up and start thinking about the final, you're not going to be playing in it," Delap said. "The manager has shown in the past that anyone who messes about, and doesn't put the work in, will be out of the team and probably out of the club."

Scorers: Aston Villa Bent 43. Stoke Jones 20. Substitutes: Aston Villa Albrighton 5 (Downing, 67), Agbonlahor (Heskey, 79). Stoke Whitehead (Etherington, 73), Fuller (Delap, 75), Diao (Jones, 88).

Booked: Stoke City Whelan, Wilson, Begovic.

Man of the match Friedel. Match rating 6/10.

Possession: Aston Villa 50% Stoke City 50%.

Attempts on target: Aston Villa 2 Stoke City 3.

Referee C Foy (Merseyside).

Attendance 35,232.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?