Sunderland boss Bruce blasts Villa’s Houllier

Gerard Houllier
Gerard Houllier
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STEVE Bruce has accused Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier of showing disrespect in his dealings over the Darren Bent transfer.

The Sunderland chief believes the Frenchman broke the managers’ code by not informing a rival boss of his interest in that club’s player.

And Bruce says even after the transfer was done and dusted, with Sunderland receiving £24million for the England forward, he has yet to hear from Villa Park. “A lot of people at our club are bitterly upset and disappointed, and rightly so,” said Bruce.

“My big disappointment, of course, is Gérard Houllier who up until this time I had the utmost respect for.

“I still haven’t had a phone call from him.

“I would have thought, out of respect and as a manager of his status, I would have thought maybe a phone call from him to say, ‘Listen Steve, we’re after your centre-forward and your striker.’

“I would have thought, maybe that might have been the way forward, it usually is with the great managers I’ve had the pleasure to deal with in the past, that’s usually the case.

“That at least would have given me an opportunity to try to do something about it. If you are telling me we gave them permission to speak to him at 8pm on Sunday and it is done and dusted and there’s a press conference by Tuesday, I don’t think we should insult our intelligence.

“We know in football it happens, we all know what goes on. We are disappointed with somebody of his magnitude, but there you go.”

Villa issued a statement in the wake of the Bent transfer accusing Sunderland of trying to besmirch the reputation of the West Midlands club, after comments made by Bruce earlier this week.

And his remarks about Houllier will have done little to smooth things over.

Sunderland, though, remain livid about the Bent move and the timing of it. Bruce said: “I can’t go along with the bigger club and the ambition that was coming from Darren.

“You will have to ask him about the timing of it and why he couldn’t have waited three months until the summer and have had a bit of respect for us.”

Bruce, who successfully fought off Turkish club Fenerbahce’s bid to sign Bent during the summer, said: “If I am being honest, I never, ever saw it coming. I didn’t see it coming.

“When I first heard about it, I just dismissed it and thought, ‘No chance’. I just dismissed it because I didn’t think they would get to the levels with the money and I didn’t think Darren would want to go there.

“I honestly, genuinely thought that. But there you go – I was wrong.

“At this particular moment, we as a football club are going to try to play in Europe and Aston Villa are in a relegation battle, so that doesn’t quite make sense.”