Bent on target to be Villa's 20-goal hero, says Heskey

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The Independent Football

Darren Bent is being tipped to score 20 goals for Aston Villa next season.

On a day when Sunderland's manager, Steve Bruce, questioned the wisdom of selling Bent to Villa, Emile Heskey has hailed the impact made by his fellow frontman since his arrival in the West Midlands in January.

Villa splashed out a club record £18m on Bent, and the 27-year-old England international has so far scored six goals in 11 Premier League appearances.

On that evidence, Heskey can see no reason why Bent cannot become a 20-goal hero in years to come.

"Obviously, Benty is always going to get goals. He's been absolutely brilliant since he's joined us," Heskey told Villa's website yesterday.

"I definitely feel he can be a 20-goal-a-season man for us. He's [shown] that finishing class over the years for every club he's played for.

"He's been playing in the top flight for many years and he always shows his class and quality in front of goal.

"They say he had a bad time at Spurs, but he was still scoring goals for them and hit 17 there in the one season. That's a great rate of goals.

"Hopefully, he can take that sort of form, and the form he's shown at Villa, into next season. There's no reason why he can't.

"He'll be a big player for us next season."

One of Bent's half-dozen goals for Villa was the equaliser in a vital 2-1 win at fellow relegation strugglers West Ham last Saturday.

That result lifted manager Gérard Houllier's side into the top half of the table, with the club now seven points clear of the drop zone.

Heskey is convinced that, with the pressure beginning to ease, Villa can enjoy a strong finish to the campaign.

"We are buzzing. It was a massive, massive win for us," said Heskey of the result over the Hammers.

"Obviously, we went down to Upton Park knowing they were in the dogfight as well so they were going to be at it. We knew they'd be up for it.

"We went at it with great determination and got the three points. It was massive. It was a huge three points.

"There was no hiding from it, we were in [the battle against relegation], but we're slowly pulling away now.

"If we keep up that form from now until the end of the season, we can finish well."