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Steve Bruce backs Darren Bent for England World Cup spot

Steve Bruce has strongly presented his case for Sunderland's in-form goalscorer Darren Bent to play for England in the World Cup finals next summer.

That could be a hint that Michael Owen at Manchester United has yet to prove his fitness and then return to international goalscoring form. While Peter Crouch and first choice under Fabio Capello, Emille Heskey, are not guaranteed starting roles for their clubs.

The Sunderland boss, who takes his team to Old Trafford for the ESPN live Premier League game, told ESPN Soccernet: "There are not many English centre-forwards of his calibre, or indeed playing regular in the Premier League.

"I wouldn't tell Fabio Capello who to choose or who not to choose, but Darren must be in contention. We don't actually have a centre-forward like him, one who scores goals, lead the line, he gives you something slightly different to the rest."

Bruce had a problem with Bent handing over the penalty duties to his Sunderland strike partner Kenwyne Jones in their last match – a 5-2 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Bruce says: "Yes I was serious about it, and I told him in no uncertain terms I didn't want that to happen, and it won't happen again. Alright if you're four or five up and the other guy needs one for a hat-trick, then fine. But not when you're 1-0 up. If he'd taken it and scored he would be the Premier League's top goalscorer, which is no mean feat."

But Bruce has no qualms about Bent being on Twitter, despite the fact that it got him into trouble at Tottenham Hotspur when the striker criticised chairman Daniel Levy. Now Bent has posted on the social networking site that he is "mad tired", but looking forward to Saturday's game at Old Trafford.

Bruce laughs: "I hadn't even heard of Twitter. It something the youngsters like. I don't mind so long as it's not offensive. As for Darren being tired, well, I did work him hard on Wednesday, so maybe he is tired!"

ESPN Soccernet then asked Bruce which of Manchester United's old boys are most likely to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson: Mark Hughes or Steve Bruce?

The Sunderland manager responded: "Whenever an old boy is playing United, this seems to crop up, it's myself, Mark Hughes, Paul Ince, Roy Keane, there's quite a few of Sir Alex's old boys in management. All I can say is that I have never really given it genuine thought, not even considered it.

"But I would have to be doing a really good job with Sunderland to put myself in with a chance of even being considered. That will do me fine, because I want to do a really good job for Sunderland. I want to do a fantastic job for Sunderland.

"I am very, very happy at Sunderland, but I cannot stop people talking. The question really is 'Do you really want to follow him?' Imagine what that would be like."

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