Bent dedicates his equaliser to 'passionate' Houllier - Premier League - Football - The Independent

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.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week