Darren Bent is not just happy to be at a club where he feels wanted, he is also thrilled to be playing alongside a striker who can bring out the best in him.
Bent’s blossoming with Kenwyne Jones was one of a number of positives for Sunderland manager Steve Bruce in the encouraging 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers.
The pair, who have only trained together for two weeks, have quickly built up an understanding on the pitch which suggests their relationship will be a prolific one for the Black Cats.
And, having ended a miserable two years at Tottenham Hotspur to move to Sunderland, Bent made no attempt to hide his excitement about what the future holds for him at Stadium of Light.
“The understanding with Kenwyne feels promising,” said Bent, whose debut goal was warmly received by his new teammates.
“He’s a fantastic striker. He took such a big weight off my shoulders.
“Last season, playing with either (Robbie) Keane or (Jermain) Defoe, I was mainly acting as the big man, but with Kenwyne it allows me to play a different role and one I prefer.
“He’s big and strong, he holds up the ball well and hopefully we can get a great partnership going. I think there’s far more to him than just taking a battering. He’s got a good first touch, he’s tough, he can finish with both feet, he can head the ball. Hopefully we can get many, many goals between us. My natural game is playing off the last defender.
“Probably people didn’t see the best of me when I was at Tottenham for that reason, because I was playing as a target man which isn’t really me. Hopefully I can kick on at Sunderland.” That will suit Bruce who is already proving to be a better manager for Bent than Harry Redknapp was at Spurs. Indeed, it was Redknapp’s lack of faith and support which forced Bent out of Tottenham. He said: “Maybe I’m the type of player who needs an arm around the shoulder sometimes, but every player, no matter who they are, needs the support of their manager at the end of the day.
“At times last season I felt I was left hung out there to dry, regardless of how I played or how many goals I scored, but since I’ve been at Sunderland it’s been fantastic. I love being around the place. The manager has made a point of talking to me every day, encouraging me, telling me what he thinks of me, what he knows I can do. That makes me believe in myself and hopefully I can repay him for that.”
Much has been made this summer of Sunderland’s geographical disadvantage, particularly when Peter Crouch rejected a move to Wearside because it was too far north.
But Bent is more interested in football than geography and the Londoner is genuinely in awe of what he has seen so far from the club’s supporters. He added: “To get five thousand fans at an away game is just amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like that before in my life. It is scary, to be honest.
“We’ve repaid them with a win and hopefully they’re happy with that. But it shows what this club is all about and what it can be, the potential that’s there.
“I’d heard that the people in the North East were passionate, but until I saw it today... Lads like Kieran (Richardson) and Anton (Ferdinand) told me that I wouldn’t quite believe it until you play in front of them.
“Now I’ve seen it for myself. It was fantastic. I can’t wait to play in front of the home supporters on Tuesday night.
“It definitely feels as though I’ve come to a club which is about to enter a new era in its history. This is a club going forward.”