Daz hell-Bent on Golden Boot gong

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.”