Gerard Houllier believes Aston Villa signing Darren Bent can meet expectations after scoring the winner against Manchester City on debut.
Bent immediately endeared himself to his new manager and fans after Ashley Young’s shot was palmed into his path 18 minutes in to Saturday’s clash at Villa Park, leaving the 26-year-old to prod home from close range.
England striker Bent – who already counts Ipswich, Charlton and Tottenham among his former clubs – joined Villa from English Premier League rivals Sunderland on January 3 in an 18-million-pound deal that could rise to 24 million.
The win moved Villa to 16th on the table and made for a delighted Houllier post-match, with special praise reserved for his new man.
“(Bent’s) finish was that of a natural-born finisher, something you cannot teach somebody. That is what he is here for, to score goals,” Houllier told Sky Sports.
“Roberto Mancini told me before the game that I’d signed a great player and that is a tremendous start for him.”
“I thought the boy handled the pressure very well. He had settled in well during the week, knows a lot of players from the international scene, and I felt he was ready to play.”
The win means City sink from second to third on the Premier League table, with table-toppers and city rivals Manchester United now three points and goal difference ahead.
But a top-four finish was the club’s pre-season goal, and City assistant Brian Kidd believes achieving that target, at least, is on track.
“We can only influence what we do, we can’t depend on other teams,” Kidd said.
“The boss has always said since he’s been here; we work hard and look to improve. We lost against Everton and the response was very, very good and no doubt the boys will respond in the right manner in the coming games.”
“It’s a blip, that’ll happen. Manchester United are going very well, they’re undefeated but personally I’ve always thought it’s Man United’s to lose many, many weeks ago. We can only influence what we can do. We’re obviously disappointed but that’s it now. It’s history, we put it behind us and we’ll work again. The boys will be in tomorrow training, so we work tomorrow morning.”
Kidd also hinted new striker Edin Dzeko – signed for 27 million pounds from Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg on January 3 – would be given time to find his feet at the club.
“Edin’s a terrific talent, a great talent. The Premier League, which he fully understands, is a demanding league, and as you’ve seen today he’s come up against a back four of centre halves, with young Ciaran Clarke as well at left-back and (Carlos) Cuellar and (James) Collins and Dunny (Richard Dunne).”
“But there’s no doubt about it, I don’t think he’s played for thirty plus, forty days, so once he gets in the swing of things there won’t be a doubt with him. He’s a talented lad.”