By Darren Bent

24th Feb, 2020 | 5:07pm

'What can they do?' - Exclusive: Bent baffled by bold Villa player admission from Smith

Darren Bent admits he was baffled to hear Aston Villa manager Dean Smith admit some players “played their way out of the team” for the League Cup final after defeat to Southampton.

The former Villa and England hitman, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, says he thinks that the boss’ comments show he was not fully focused on trip to the south coast.

Speaking after the defeat at St Mary’s, Smith told the media that he was “hurt” by the “lack of fight” his players showed, suggesting that some would not feature in the cup clash against Manchester City.

However, Bent was not overly impressed with the manager’s statement, suggesting that he himself was not fully focused on the club’s Premier League campaign ahead of next weekend’s Wembley trip.

“I don’t understand. For me, don’t address next week, that tells me already that he maybe had one eye on next week as well,” Bent told Football Insider.

“At the minute it’s difficult for Villa, confidence is low, what can they do? With this big game that they’ve got this weekend, there will have been players out there with one eye on it thinking: ‘I don’t want to get injured.’

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“I thought there would have been players in the team who would have stepped up and tried to get themselves into the team.”

Ahead of West Ham’s clash with Liverpool on Monday night, Villa sit one place and one point outside the drop zone, with Bournemouth a point ahead of them in 16th.

Their next league game is away at Leicester City, before playing host to Chelsea.

In other Aston Villa news, Kevin Phillips has tipped one man to stop the rot at Villa Park.