I WAS as gobsmacked as anyone when news broke on Monday afternoon that Darren Bent was leaving Sunderland.
I heard it on the radio and almost had to stop the car!
At the time, the derby game the day before was still occupying my thoughts, but that was quickly put to the back of my mind as I tried to absorb the bombshell of Bent’s move to Aston Villa and what it all meant for Sunderland.
The dust has settled since then on what has been a fairly quick-moving chain of events.
Not only has Darren agreed an £18million deal which I understand will eventually rise to £24m, but he’s since been unveiled at a Villa Press conference and is due to play in the home game against Manchester City on Saturday night.
Things move pretty fast in football sometimes, don’t they?
I think the first thing to say about this whole episode is that one thing stands out above everything else in this whole issue and it’s this: Darren Bent put in a transfer request.
As ever with incidents like this, there can be a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of rumours and counter-rumours, but the development of most significance is that the player has put in a written transfer request and wants to be away.
If you start off with that basic fact as your starting point, then it becomes easier to judge what has gone on.
And, for me, Sunderland were immediately put in a very difficult position – particularly as they, and presumably the player, were fully aware of Villa’s interest in signing him.
They had a simple choice: do we try and keep an unhappy player or do we bite the bullet, accept he can go and then look to get the highest price for him?
Niall Quinn and Steve Bruce chose the latter course of action – perhaps influenced by the fact that Bent had also put in a written transfer request less than a year ago – and, personally, I think it’s impossible to criticise them or the club over this whole affair.
Why? Again, because the player wanted to go and couldn’t have made that clearer.
Now I’m not going to criticise Bent for leaving and I’m not going to assume that we know the reasons why he did.
That’s his affair and I long ago made my mind up that in this life people have the right to do what they want to do.
He made the decision that he wanted to go and fans might be unhappy about it, but there’s nothing we can do to bring him back and we might as well move.
Yes, it’s disappointing, especially given the fact that he had made such an impact here in such a short space of time.
He might have had a slump of poor form recently, but if I was convinced of one thing, it was that he would soon be back among the goals, simply because that’s what he does. And even in this current run of poor form, he was always someone you felt might get you a goal in every match he started.
Good luck to him. He’ll get goals at Villa, I can guarantee that.
But that’s not really of much interest to me.
The bottom line is that he came to Sunderland, he scored goals, he helped us progress and now he’s gone. Let’s move on.
Now it’s all about what Sunderland do next and personally, although this has been something of a disaster in the short term, I think that long-term this could actually prove to be good news for Sunderland.
Read the full Rowell Report in tonight’s Echo.