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Darren Bent Gave Me Trust Issues - Don't Break My Heart, Jermain!

Darren Bent is a twat. Jermain Defoe is not a twat. But still.... you can't blame me for being a little bit scared about our best player being linked with a move to another club, right?

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Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

In January 2011 Sunderland were sitting pretty in sixth place in the Premier League with one of the most lethal centre forwards to have graced the hallowed Stadium of Light turf since Kevin Phillips, namely Darren Bent, smashing in goals every other week.

“I want to become a legend here, like Kevin Phillips, said Bent, as he was interviewed after hitting a brace against Birmingham City, the striker’s 19th and 20th goals of the season.

The Premier League had long been around by that point, and we had seen plenty of players turn their backs on the clubs that had made them heroes, if only to leave at the first opportunity for a bigger pay packet - yet, Darren Bent’s relationship with Sunderland and the supporters felt trustworthy.

I had six or seven days up here at the training ground doing nothing. So I watched the DVDs, saw Kevin in action and got a feel for what it meant to be a Sunderland striker and how special they are for the fans here.

Darren Bent had been thrown on the scrapheap by Spurs. Harry Redknapp publicly humiliated him by insisting his wife would have scored one of the chances the then England forward had missed at White Hart Lane.

Sunderland v Newcastle United- Barclays Premier League Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

At Sunderland, he was the main man. The fans loved him and he loved us. We had resurrected his career. His move to Wearside had turned him from being a joke, to causing widespread head-scratching over why he wasn’t England’s main striker going into a major tournament.

Secretly, though, Bent had been anchoring for a move away from Sunderland since the summer transfer window - he told then-chairman Niall Quinn that he wanted to leave that pre-season to join up with Turkish club Fenerbache - and in January of 2011 he was purchased by Aston Villa, who were below Sunderland in the Premier League table.

Bent sold us all down the river and all for a fatter wallet. It made me feel sick.

Like a scorned lover, I swore I would never trust the words of a millionaire footballer ever again. If Darren Bent could say all of those things and hand in a transfer request to move to Aston bloody Villa then the word loyalty had no place in modern football.

When news emanated this week that West Ham were in pursuit of Jermain Defoe the sinking feeling that the same could happen to us again left me with a cold sweat.

Slaven Bilic spoke yesterday of Jermain Defoe’s quality, and it felt a little bit like another bloke was talking about my wife, but in front of me. I’ve always been defensive, but the Darren Bent situation has given me trust issues.

Defoe has made it clear that he's enjoying his time here, and it was something that he said back in October which has resonated with me most:

If you love playing football, if you want to play in front of amazing fans, a big stadium, at a club with fantastic training facilities, then put some tracksuit bottoms on and come and play for Sunderland. It’s a soft way out to make excuses about the weather.

He added:

London's so busy, in a way it's nice to come away from that. I don't think there's so many distractions. For my football, for my career it's better.

In a season where we have lost Sam Allardyce, have had to deal with the petulance of Lamine Kone and his flirting with Everton, not to mention the added frustration of Yann M’Vila’s will-he-won’t-he transfer saga, losing Jermain Defoe would sign the death certificate on our Premier League status.

News this morning has suggested that West Ham have given up on their chase for Defoe, instead looking elsewhere at other targets, but it would be foolish to presume that the Hammers aren't going to keep one eye on Jermain should their situation not change.

Regardless, this is not the time to be selling our best players - even if we are completely skint. The beauty of the January window is that the selling clubs hold all of the cards, and if anyone wants to buy a player like Defoe, they're going to be charged a premium for it. Just ask Aston Villa, who broke the bank to snatch Darren Bent from us almost six years ago - and we all know how that worked out for them.

The hope is that nobody at the club would be foolish enough to sanction a move, no matter how much they offer in the first place. Likewise, I hope that Jermain Defoe’s words aren’t as lifeless as the stadium West Ham want him to play in.

Has Defoe done anything to warrant interrogation?

Not at all.

But, in my own mind, I can't ignore just how the whole Darren Bent fiasco made me feel. It's like I've been here before.

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