Houllier: Bent the man for England
Bent took his tally to six in 11 games since completing an £18million January move from Sunderland when he cut in front of Wayne Bridge to head Villa level at Upton Park. Gabriel Agbonlahor then struck in added time to seal a victory that saw Villa shoot up the table to ninth place on 40 points but left West Ham deeper in the mire. Bent started England's European Championships qualifying victory over Wales and he has scored three goals in nine games for his country. "I think he will step up now. He is gradually now providing international performances," said Houllier, the Aston Villa manager. "I always think there are three levels. There is Premier League level, international level and world class. "The first aim is to be a regular international. He's improved and Fabio Capello probably saw that." While the likes of Fernando Torres, Edin Dzeko and Luis Suarez were traded during the January transfer window, Villa shelled out a record transfer fee to sign Bent from Sunderland. Houllier understood the value of buying British and he viewed Bent as an under-rated talent who could spearhead Villa's bid for survival. "He came to the club and gave us all a lift. It was important to take someone who knew the English game. We knew exactly what we were expecting from him," Houllier said. "His work-rate is phenomenal. His movement is fantastic. He's not only a good player but a good lad as well. "I probably (rate him higher) than many people because he's not spectacular but he's so clinical in his finish. "The one I liken him to, who was a lethal finisher as well, is Robbie Fowler. He was clinical like that. Instinctive. Every single training, he scores." After two wins and a draw from their last three games, Villa now have 40 points and are virtually safe, although Houllier will not rest until they have at least one more win. "I must give credit to their character because that is what we need when we are in a fight against relegation, you need character and you need composure," said Houllier. "The turning point is probably the short meeting we had together before the Everton game. "We just said we were starting a new league, of just three games. In those we have picked up seven points. "More importantly, we have come back twice in those games from going behind. So it could be a turning point. "Before this game we said two more wins and a draw, which would be 44 points. But we've got to keep the momentum. That's the most important thing. "The fighting spirit is for me the base. Whatever the talent you need to work and fight. This league is extremely competitive. "It's never finished right until the end. Some teams would have been happy to have a point here and just tried to keep it. But we went for the three points."