Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has claimed that Darren Bent's move to Aston Villa was the reason why his former striker had been off his game in recent weeks.
The England international finalised a whirlwind £18million move to the midlands club last night, just 24 hours after news of his likely departure from the Stadium of Light had emerged.
Bent claimed at his official Villa Park unveiling that he had swapped sixth-placed Sunderland for relegation-threatened Villa because they were a "massive" club, but Bruce is not in agreement.
In a strongly-worded statement on his club's official website, he claimed he accused the 26-year-old of failing everyone at the club which he joined from Tottenham in 2009.
He said: "It's hugely disappointing that Darren has decided that his future lies away from Sunderland and the players, our supporters and the club as a whole has every right to feel massively let down.
"The timing is especially hard to take, given that we are progressing positively and are in a great position to push on.
"Everyone has been nothing but supportive of Darren in his time at Sunderland but it's obvious he's not been himself in training and and we've certainly not seen the best of him in games in recent weeks - and now we understand why.
"I've always stated that my aim is to build a talented, young squad for the long-term to help the club achieve sustained success and I want Sunderland fans to know our ambitions haven't changed on that front."