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May 12, 2012

Bent could still make finals

New England manager Roy Hodgson could have an unexpected name to select when he picks his squad for Euro 2012 on Wednesday.

Aston Villa striker Darren Bent was ruled out for the season after rupturing ankle ligaments in February. It was thought his only hope of international football this summer would be the Olympic Games, but his recovery has been quicker than anticipated.

Bent is back in training and, according to Villa boss Alex McLeish, could be ready to play again in "two or three weeks".

Hodgson, who will officially take over with England on Monday after the end of the Premier League season, will now be left to decide if taking Bent is worth the risk. With Wayne Rooney, suspended for the first two games of the finals, certain to be in the 23 taking a striker with fitness doubts would be a gamble.

But Bent is one of few strikers who have looked comfortable when given their chance by England, scoring three goals in qualifying for Euro 2012. There is not a wealth of talent queuing up behind the former Sunderland and Spurs hitman.

Hodgson does have the option of naming the player in his 23, and perhaps taking a standby player along for the two warm-up matches against Norway and Belgium. Although UEFA's final squad deadline is May 29, injured players can still be replaced before the start of the tournament.

McLeish said: "Darren is working hard and training well. He's not joined the group yet. It's important that Darren gets a good summer behind him and regroups for the start of next season.

"He has come through a lot and he's at a good stage just now. He's enjoying his one-on-ones with the physios, he's working really hard.

"Can he make the Euros? Roy Hodgson would have a better idea. If there were six weeks of the season to go, he'd certainly be back within those six weeks.

"But whether he goes to the Euros would be Roy's decision. It seems at this moment that, with another two or three weeks' training, he could be fine and available, put it that way.''

McLeish admits the absence of Bent has been a massive blow for Villa.

He said: "I think it's 19 games the big fellow has missed. God knows how many goals he'd have got us and maybe have taken us into a little comfort zone. Hopefully he makes a full recovery in the summer and he's ready all guns blazing for next season.''

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