Darren Bent laughed as he recalled the shirt number Gerard Houllier handed him at Aston Villa.
The striker was one of the Premier League’s most prolific attackers when he joined Villa for £18million in 2011 – and was hoping to be the club’s new no.9
However, Stephen Ireland was in possession, but Houllier had a solution.
“He was hellbent on saying to me ‘well you have to wear no.39’.
“I was like ‘why 39’ and he said ‘because it’s got a nine in it’ – he was adamant that I had to wear 39 just because it had a nine in it. Weird.”
Bent was discussing shirt numbers with Drive Time co-host Andy Goldstein, specifically the duo were focusing on Dominik Szoboszlai wearing no.8 at Liverpool, which once belonged to Steven Gerrard.
Asked if he could ever wear a number two or four or his back, Bent, who made his name scoring goals said: “No, no.”
Goldstein then asked what the lowest number was that he’d wear, to which the former striker said: “No.8. Why no.8? Who wore no.8 at my club [Arsenal]? My hero [Ian Wright]. I wore it at Godmanchester Rovers!”
Thankfully for Bent, he didn’t have to wait too long to get his wish.
Six months after his arrival, the no.9 shirt became vacant, meaning that Bent would be able to wear the shirt number of his choosing.
The striker went on to enjoy a strong season for Villa, scoring 10 times in 25 matches in the 2011/12 season, proving why he was undoubtedly a deserved recipient of the jersey.
Having started at Ipswich, he played for Charlton, Tottenham, Sunderland and Fulham in addition to the five seasons at Villa Park. He retired from playing with 106 Premier League goals to his name.
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