Fulham skipper Danny Murphy is wary of the threat Darren Bent poses at Craven Cottage after watching him cut his teeth at Charlton.
Bent had scored plenty of goals in the Championship with Ipswich before establishing himself at The Valley in the 2006 season, where Murphy was before leaving for Tottenham halfway through that campaign.
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After spell at Spurs himself, Bent has hit the ground running at Sunderland since the summer and has earned an England recall – and he will be looking to add to his nine Barclays Premier League goals so far when he arrives at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
“If you switch off once with Darren, he’ll kill you,” Murphy said. “He’s a big factor in why Sunderland are where they are in the league.
“I’ve played with Darren and I’m a big fan of his because the one thing he always does is get goals. You might not see him for 80 minutes in a game but he’ll keep running, he’ll keep working hard to get his chances, and he’ll put one away.
“Sunderland also play with that Steve Bruce tenacity that was evident at Birmingham and Wigan. They’ve got a great work ethic and I’m expecting a difficult game.”
Thanks to Bent’s goals, Sunderland are in a healthy position in the top half of the table, emulating Fulham‘s efforts last season when they qualified for the Europa League.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is prioritising the league but they can still qualify for the last 32 of Europe’s second-tier club competition after beating CSKA Sofia this week.
Victory was earned despite Murphy missing an early penalty.
“It sounds blase, but I just assumed I’d score,” Murphy said. “That’s not the way I usually go about my penalties, so I’m a bit disappointed with myself.
“The match wasn’t pretty but the result was all that mattered. It gives us something to play for in the last game against Basle.”
Hodgson is not surprised to see Steve Bruce’s men in the top half of the table after investing wisely in the summer on players such as Bent.
“There has to be some so-called surprise packages in the top half because there aren’t enough top-four teams to go around,” he said. “There are still six places to fill in the top 10 and some of those will be so-called surprised packages.
“I would have thought at the moment, with the investment made at the start of the season and the quality of the players they brought, I don’t think too many of us will be surprised to see them in the top half of the table. That is where they will be aiming for.”