David Boyle - No Bloody Way!
Sunderland's early season reliance on Steven Fletcher for goals was as well documented as it was concerning. However since then the rest of the side has began to pull their weight and the midfield is chipping in with the odd goal here and there. There is of course the nagging worry that should Steven Fletcher be sidelined for any prolonged period of time that we would be, well, screwed. This would be a viewpoint I would tend to agree with to a point, especially when you consider the options we have in reserve.
Louis Saha simply hasn't looked like scoring whilst on the pitch, Fraizer Campbell is seemingly being utilised in the old Steve Bruce favourite role of being used as a pointless late sub out on the right-hand side, Ji-Dong Won isn't likely to make an appearance anytime soon and of course the "next big thing" Ryan Noble is currently on loan with Hartlepool.
But what about Wickham I hear you cry? Calm down dear, I'm getting to young Connor now. Much was expected of the former Ipswich striker following his big money move to the North-East and many, myself very much included, expected to have seen more of the talented striker by now. Despite impressing on the international scene for England U-21's and a number of goals for the reserves, or whatever it is called now, Wickham has struggled to impress O'Neill since his arrival.
All that could be about to change however. It has been reported that Wickham has been undertaking some additional one-on-one training sessions behind the scenes with coach Steve Guppy and the results were evident in his performance as a half-time substitute against Norwich.
It would appear that time and patience, as predicted by Steve Bruce upon Connor's arrival, would be needed and it seem that the former gaffer was right. Wickham now looks more comfortable with putting in the kind of shift that is required of a centre forward in the Premier League having bulked up somewhat, the ease at which he brushed off the attentions of experienced Sebastian Bassong at Carrow road perfectly showcasing this. His holdup play and first touch also appear to have come on leaps and bounds - all very promising signs.
I would therefore by a lot more comfortable in putting our faith and trust in young Wickham than further line the pockets of a man who had an opportunity to become a legend on Wearside but chose to give us all the middle finger and sell us down the river for that "big club" in Birmingham instead. Bent didn't just burn his bridges, he blew them up before grinding any remaining rubble into dust with his endorsed Adidas size elevens. F*** him.
Chris Weatherspoon - Yes Please!
(Disclaimer: I'm only writing this section because Dave beat me to writing the 'no way' argument - the bastard that he is. That said, I believe the reasons I'm giving below are more than valid; but negated by the fact I also feel Bent's actions were unforgivable.)
Loyalty in football? Tssk. That disappeared about twenty years ago, around the time rather rotund figures emerged from the woodwork, clad in black and white ensembles, before plonking themselves on the sofa and cheering Wor Kev's men onto an ultimately unsuccessful charge up the English football ladder.
I digress. But my point is: can we really preach about loyalty in football anymore when, really, very few footballers, coaches, managers, whatever, can honestly be seen as loyal? Yes, Darren Bent hurt us. Yes, his timing was ill, his actions petulant, his eyes flashing with green dollars each time he blinked. Yet, if we use that as a reason for not signing footballers, we surely dramatically reduce the crop we can consider?
Darren Bent is a proven goalscorer, plain and simple. Everywhere he has been, he has scored goals. Even amid the confusion under Harry Redknapp that saw the then-Spurs gaffer mistake Bent for his own wife - let's hope that mistake wasn't replicated later in the evening - Bent shrugged off the pelters he was receiving from his own manager and came away with a respectable tally.
At Sunderland he banged home the goals for eighteen months without fail. Any time the ball dropped in the ball and Bent was nearby, you didn't even need to check back to see if the net had bulged. You just knew. It happened time and time again and, whatever anyone says, if he was to return, few people will be moaning when he once more replicates that form.
We have a side which currently struggles for goals. The reliance on Steven Fletcher is one he cannot shoulder for much longer - indeed, we are already seeing a relative 'dry spell' for the Scotsman. The return of Bent would admonish him of such drastic responsibility. Fletcher has already proven himself an adept all-round striker. With Bent taking the weight off by supplying his own goals, Fletcher could act as an effective foil - and no doubt stick a few away himself.
Depth-wise, the squad is crying out for a striker. If Fletcher is injured, which he may be this weekend, that leaves Connor Wickham to come into the fray. Again, that's a lot of responsibility on one man's shoulders - especially a one so young as Wickham. Louis Saha is nought but an impact (and I use that term lightly) sub. Fraizer Campbell is...well...just a sub really. Ji Dong-Won is expected to be farmed out on loan.
So, though it may sting at first, welcoming back Darren Bent just makes sense. At the end of the day, his crime was one of greed - hardly something to applaud, but there have been plenty of footballers come and go on Wearside for the same reasons who haven't been subjected to the hatred Bent has felt. I'm not saying that hatred is misplaced, but surely his goals make up for it?
So who do you side with? Cast your vote in our poll below!