Villa boss dismisses rumours of rift with £18m signing Darren Bent
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists there is no rift with £18million club-record signing Darren Bent, who has been dropped for the last two games, and that the pair are on good terms.
Striker Bent has been replaced by £6.5million summer capture Christian Benteke in the starting line-up for the Premier League games with West Brom and Tottenham.
There have been reports that Lambert and Bent, who has also been axed from the England squad, are not on speaking terms.
But Lambert is adamant the duo enjoy a healthy relationship although he understands Bent's frustration at losing his spot.
The former Norwich boss said: "I've never had a problem with Darren. I have a laugh and a joke with him.
"Of course, I understand people get frustrated when they are left out. You'd be more worried if they weren't.
"But he has not been knocking on my door. There was never a problem.
"As for people saying we are not talking, I don't worry because I know it's not true. Like I said, we have a laugh and a joke and there has never been that problem.
"I try to be fair and honest with everyone. I don't rule with fear if that is what people think. I treat people the right way and respect them. I don't do anything untoward."
Lambert added: "You wouldn't take Darren's selfishness away from him because he is a goalscorer and that's what he does best.
"But my job is to pick a team that will win us a game. That is my job and that's what I try and do for this football club.
"It will be the same for everyone. I trust the lads to perform. That's the great thing I've got but I can't keep everyone happy all the time. It's a decision I'll make."
Lambert, whose side visit Fulham tomorrow, is predicting a massive future for 21-year-old Benteke, who netted for Belgium in the World Cup qualifiers with Serbia and Scotland during the past week.
It was his perfect response after missing a golden chance to open the scoring in the 2-0 defeat at Tottenham a fortnight ago.
The Villa boss said: "I'm pretty sure when he went away after the Tottenham game, when he had a big chance to score, he could have gone under.
"To bounce back with two goals in two games for his national team is excellent. That's a big thing for a young player, to get over the disappointment.
"Christian is playing in a right top Belgium side and more than holding his own.
"For someone who is only 21 and the way he is performing, what he will do for this club will be terrific.
"I thought that when we signed him 'this kid can be a right top player'. I think he can be huge, anything he wants to be. He can be a top, top striker because he is a handful.
"He will make mistakes because he doesn't know everything about the game but as time goes on, and he becomes experienced, he will be an absolute handful."
Villa have collected only one win from their opening seven league games but Lambert is happy with their performances.
He said: "The good thing is the lads know themselves they are playing well.
"Everyone says they could have more points and it is not something I really worry about. I never look over my shoulder at what could have been.
"It's now that is in my thinking. But the performances have been good and we will just keep on going.
"They are playing well enough to win games, that's for sure."