Even now he remains as baffled as ever as to how and why it all went so wrong for him at Villa Park just two years after becoming the club’s £18m record buy.
“I know just as much as you about why I haven’t played,” Bent told the Daily Star. “One minute I was captain and everything was going really well. And I remember he called me, the manager, and said, ‘What happened last season? What do you think the problems are?’
“I was thinking, ‘Well obviously this is going to be a good season’, but for whatever reason it seemed to change.
“I know Christian [Benteke] came in, did really well, and scored a lot of goals but I always thought the aim was for me to play with him. But it didn’t work out like that.
“There were times last season when I wasn’t even in the squad with no explanation. I had the captaincy taken away. It was difficult.
“Losing the squad number set it in stone, when I didn’t even know I had lost it. No one had said anything.
“A picture came through to me saying, ‘Have you seen your new squad number?’. That was it. He gave me 39. That’s what I had when I first went to Villa.
“All the guys like me, Stevie Ireland, Alan Hutton – we were like 37, 38, 39.
“When we came back for pre-season we were all in the kids’ changing-room, all our stuff was taken out of our lockers from the first-team changing room.
“Our names were taken off our lockers and put in the kids’ changing room. So we were effectively training with the reserves. That was the first day we got in.”
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