• £24m striker frustrated over bit-part role at Midlands club
• I want to contribute and enjoy playing, says Bent
Darren Bent looks certain to leave Aston Villa this summer, with the club's record signing making it clear that he would not be willing to accept another season where he is largely confined to the substitutes' bench. The 29-year-old striker admitted he has felt frustrated, hurt and angry at various stages during a season when he has been forced to play second fiddle to the outstanding Christian Benteke, starting only one Premier League game in the past six months.
Bent said that he has not spoken to Paul Lambert about his situation because he did not want to "go in, kicking and screaming" at time when the Villa manager has had a relegation battle to deal with. The England international intends, however, to sit down with Lambert and Randy Lerner, the Villa owner, as soon as the season is over to resolve his future. "I've got two years after this one so I've still got a long time. But for me it's all about playing football matches and I'm not really one of these guys who wants to sit there, not do anything and then get paid," Bent said.
"I want to play football and I want to contribute and enjoy playing. I won't ask to go but at the same time I have to sit down with the manager, the chairman and my agent and just go from there really.
"As much as I've enjoyed my time at Aston Villa and loved every minute of it – I've obviously got a good relationship with the fans and the football club – it is about playing games and, at my age, I can't have another season like I've had this season, because time is running out. I have to play football. It's as simple as that."
Lambert has preferred to play Benteke, whom Bent acknowledged has enjoyed a "fantastic season", either alone in a 4-2-3-1 formation or as part of a three-man attack, with Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor providing support from the flanks. For Bent, whose goals helped Villa to pull clear of the relegation zone when he joined from Sunderland in a £24m deal a little more than two years ago, it has been quite a turnaround.
"Last season I started off really well and halfway through I got the big injury [ruptured ankle ligaments] so that killed it. This season, for whatever reason, it's carried on in the same vein and I'm not playing as much. I can't really put my finger on why. I'm not giving it any less than 100% – sometimes it just goes like that. I know I've had a few injuries this season and stuff but at the same time I can't pinpoint where it all started to deteriorate really.
"I've not gone to see [the manager]. It's been a difficult situation anyway, fighting relegation. The last thing I want to do is go in, kicking and screaming and stuff. We're all one team at the end of the day and it's not about one individual. When the time is right and it's the right time to talk about things, I'm sure I'll do that."
Bent has not played 90 minutes for Villa in the Premier League since the 4-1 defeat at Southampton on 22 September and he has often failed to get off the bench. "Every game you don't play in hurts that little bit more. Especially when you're on the bench and come on – you're still hurting because you want to start. But it's nowhere near as bad as when you're sitting on the bench and you don't come on at all.
"It is frustrating and I do get angry at times. But all I can do is continue to try and train hard and when I do get an opportunity, to play well and take it from there really."
With Benteke suspended for Sunday's game against Wigan, following his dismissal in the 2-1 defeat against Chelsea last Saturday, there is a chance that Bent could be called into action on the final day of the season. "Christian's out which is going to be a big loss because he's had a fantastic season but if I can get the nod then hopefully it would be nice to play a part again," Bent said. "I'm working hard every day in training and I've been doing extra sessions in the gym and stuff. So if I'm called upon, I'm ready to go."