Bruce slams Bent and Houllier
Bruce is still angry with the manner of Bent's departure, who he believes forced his way out of the club and spoke with Villa about a potential move long before Sunderland received an official approach. While the transfer, £18 million rising to a possible £24 million, will boost the club's coffers, Bruce is aggrieved at the timing of the whole saga - as it has suddenly left him short of striking options with little time to bring in a replacement.
"I had a conversation with [Sunderland chairman] Niall [Quinn], we had this offer which had been in 24 or maybe 48 hours before [Bent was sold], something like that, but it was the first really genuine sort of notice that we had heard of," Bruce said, when asked about the circumstances surrounding the sale. "I think that obviously they [representatives for Bent and Aston Villa] had had conversations, but that's where it started.
"I spoke to Darren and I spoke to his agent on the Sunday evening, and it was fairly obvious that they had made their mind up and wanted to go. And Darren handed in a transfer request dated that night, and that's where it started and that's where it was.
"The disappointing thing for me with Darren was the timing of it. I thought we had averted it last summer, he wanted to go to Turkey last summer and we averted it then. So, it's the timing for me - if I'd known four weeks beforehand, or five weeks beforehand from the agent or Darren that they were unhappy at the club or wanted to move on then I wouldn't be in the position that I am now, with ten days before the window ends, with the injury to Danny Welbeck, that has put us in the situation that we are in.
"So it has given us very little time to try and do anything. So it's the timing of it that's the disappointing thing. All Benty has thought of is himself but I suppose that's football and that's the way it is."
Bruce admitted he was tempted to reject Villa's offer and leave Bent to stew at the Stadium of Light.
"Of course we were, we were tempted," he said. "I think what shocked us all was that the written transfer request with Benty was so brutal, you know, and then in our experience with him what's the point of keeping someone who doesn't want to be here? I have to say the last few weeks we've all been scratching our heads and saying 'Is there something wrong, he doesn't look himself' but no, we didn't see it coming."
Bruce believes Villa's move is an indication of Sunderland's elevated status within the Premier League, but he nevertheless had criticism for his opposite number Houllier, who he believes has not handled the situation like a 'great manager' would.
"Well it is part of parcel of being successful. We've been okay up to now and teams want your good players. That's part and parcel of our success," Bruce said. "It's important we concentrate on the game on Saturday, we don't let it ruin our season. People are bitterly upset and rightly so.
"My big disappointment is Gerard Houllier too. Up until now we still haven't had a phone call from him. I would have thought out of respect, from a manager of his status, I would have thought maybe a call from him, saying 'Look, here's the situation, we are after your centre forward' might have been the way forward. It usually is with the great managers I've had the pleasure to deal with in the past.
"So the whole thing has disappointed us, but there you go - that's football and we move on, and what's important is the players that are still here, that want to be here, and want to add to the success we've already had."