Bitter rivals Brighton and Palace face January battle for Darren Bent
Brighton and Hove Albion (4/1 chances with Coral to go down from the Championship) and Crystal Palace (6/4 third-favourites to suffer Premier League relegation) are set to renew hostilities in their respective pursuits of ex-England striker Darren Bent.
Currently owned by, but completed out of favour at Aston Villa, 30-year-old frontman Bent spent December on loan at the Seagulls, but their bitter rivals are also in the market for another attacking option.
Both Albion and the Eagles have made or are about to announce a change of manager. Brighton have appointed ex-Newcastle, Birmingham and Norwich boss Chris Hughton to succeed Sami Hyypia, while Palace are finalising the compensation package for Alan Pardew, who is set to take over from Neil Warnock.
Scoring twice for the Seagulls last month, Bent’s clear preference is understood to be joining a club where he is guaranteed regular first-team football. Villa boss Paul Lambert chose to leave him on the bench, despite an injury crisis up front at the start of the season at the West Midlands outfit.
Previously playing for three other London clubs (Charlton Athletic, Spurs and Fulham), Bent reached double figures in 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2008/09 when he was a regular starter for the Addicks and Tottenham.
Brighton have the likes of Sam Baldock, Adrian Colunga and returning loan duo Craig Mackail-Smith and Chris O’Grady for Hughton to assess as attacking options.
The Eagles have Marouane Chamakh, Fraizer Campbell, Dwight Gayle and veteran Andy Johnson to choose from up front, plus a decision over whether to extend Kevin Doyle’s stay at Selhurst Park from Wolves. Glenn Murray, who scored 30 goals in Palace’s promotion season (2012/143), is to return to south London too, following a loan spell at Reading.
Remaining on the south coast looks like a less competitive option for former Ipswich Town and Sunderland striker Bent, then, but the lure of Premier League football may prove a real temptation.
Swansea City’s French frontman Bafetimbi Gomis is another reported target for Palace, while Hughton may also be keen to keep Norwich winger Elliott Bennett at the Amex Stadium for the rest of the season.