EXCLUSIVE

Darren Bent has defended Newcastle United striker Dwight Gayle over his building reputation as a Championship quality striker.

The former England forward, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, says that he can understand why the 28-year-old chose to remain at St James’ Park rather than drop down a division once again, having dazzled during his loan spell at West Brom.

It was reported that the Baggies offered the striker a chance to return to the Hawthorns after his 24 goals last season, but that the player himself turned down the opportunity.

With his prolific record in the second tier not matched by his tally in the Premier League, Bent has shot down the suggestion he is a Championship hitman, insisting regular game time will see him score at any level.

Bent told Football Insider: “For me, I understand where he’s coming from because he doesn’t want to get tagged with that ‘Championship striker’ tag, that is the worst tag you can have.

“What you don’t want to keep doing is going to those clubs who are in the promotion race every season. You go to West Brom, they get promoted to the Premier League and then they send you away to one of the sides who have just been relegated.

“You don’t want to be tagged with that. A lot of people are saying he’s a very good Championship striker. I’m a firm believer he’s a very good striker – if he’s given games, he’ll score goals.”

Gayle has 29 goals in 71 appearances for Newcastle but only six of those have come in the Premier League, the other 23 coming during their Championship-winning campaign back in 2017.

He has 21 top-flight goals in 99 games played, while his record in the second tier stands at at 59 in 100 matches.

In other Newcastle United news, Danny Mills has been raving to Football Insider about the Magpies’ game-changing talent.