Darren Bent's shopping trip sparks row

Alex McLeish today angrily reacted to the “conspiracy theory” over Darren Bent’s absence for Villa after the striker went Christmas shopping while his team-mates were beaten by Liverpool.

Alex McLeish today angrily reacted to the “conspiracy theory” over Darren Bent’s absence for Villa after the striker went Christmas shopping while his team-mates were beaten by Liverpool.

Bent was surprisingly absent from Villa’s starting line-up for the visit of Kenny Dalglish’s side with an injury in the groin/thigh region picked up in training last week.

The club’s record signing was told to rest by Villa boss McLeish and was subsequently pictured out shopping in Cambridge while the match was taking place.

Bent then said sorry to supporters who called in to question his commitment to the club via micro blogging site Twitter having watched the bulk of Villa’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool on television.

“Nothing is more important to me than playing football. Sadly injury meant I wasn’t able to do that today. Gutted not to be involved,” Bent tweeted.

“I hope to be back very soon. Watched the majority of the game on TV. Never knew popping out would cause an issue and for that I apologise.”

McLeish had faced awkward questions about why the England international was not in the side but refuted suggestions it had been because of a disagreement with Bent and insisted he was genuinely injured.

“Bent was in for two hours’ treatment this morning and was told to rest at home,” said McLeish.

“He went home and watched the game but near the end he went out to collect some Christmas presents. End of story. Darren was injured — do you think I would leave him out of a game like this?

“I don’t know why there is a conspiracy theory. You think I would leave Darren Bent out of a game? I wanted to keep things back from Liverpool. I don’t want Liverpool knowing our starting line-up.

“He has an injury, I witnessed it myself. He walked off the training field and unfortunately he didn’t make it.”

McLeish is now sweating on the 27-year-old striker’s fitness for the visit of Arsenal on Wednesday and will check again on him in the next 24 hours before making a decision.