Bent gunning for Golden Boot gong

Sunderland star Darren Bent has not given up hope of finishing his

first season at the Stadium of Light as the Premier League’s top

scorer.

The 26-year-old has been a major hit on Wearside since his

£10million summer escape from Tottenham, and has repaid

manager Steve Bruce for his investment with 23 goals to date, 22 of

them in the league.

That has left him trailing Manchester United and England’s

Wayne Rooney by just four and Chelsea’s Didier Drogba by three.

But while his presence in that kind of company could be

regarded as reward enough, Bent is determined to push two of the

country’s most prolific marksman all the way.

He might have been even closer had he not seen two penalties

saved by Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes last weekend, when he had to

make do with a double.

Bent said: “The one thing that disappointed me about last

weekend was the missed penalties because if I had scored them, I

would have been right in the mix with Rooney and Drogba.

“But I was happy to get two goals in a great win for us and

it is definitely still a motivation for me to finish as the top

scorer.

“If you can do that in this league, then you have made your

mark.

“If it doesn’t happen, then it wasn’t meant to be. There are

only five games left for me to get enough goals, but as long as I

keep going, then I will give it a go.

“We have some winnable games, we are in form and the way the

team is creating chances, I feel I can score in every game.”

Rooney’s injury problems, which saw him limp out of last

night’s Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Bayern

Munich, could boost Bent’s hopes of pipping him to the top spot and

in the process, keep alive his hopes of joining the United striker

in the England squad at this summer’s World Cup finals.

He will get his next chance at West Ham on Saturday as

Sunderland attempt to build up their improved run of form – they

have lost just one of their last seven games and are all but

mathematically safe – and deepen the Hammers’ woes.

Bent told the Sunderland Echo: “We have been coming flying

out of the blocks in the last few games and we have to make sure we

do that on Saturday.

“West Ham will look to do the same. I saw their draw at

Everton last weekend and they obviously have a lot of spirit.

“Gianfranco Zola is a popular man and it seems the players

are 100% behind him.

“But their crowd can turn very quickly, so if we can start

well and hopefully get in front, we can make it difficult.

“The good thing is that West Ham and any Zola side will want

to play football.

“It’s not like we’re going to a Stoke or Blackburn where

there’s not really much football. It should be a very good game.”