Since the inception of the Premier League back in 1992, only 20 players had managed to score 100 goals or more in England's top-flight. That changed last night.

Darren Bent's goal for Aston Villa in Wednesday night's 2-2 draw with QPR at Villa Park will long live in the memory of the 27-year-old England international, after he was welcomed into a very exclusive club.

The milestone can be regarded as an exceptional achievement for any player, but Bent's membership is reward for the hard work that began in earnest back in April 2002, when his journey to the 'golden 100' was kick-started with a goal off the bench as a promising 18-year-old at Ipswich Town. It was a crucial strike at that, in a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at Portman Road.

That turned out to be his only Premier League goal for the Tractor Boys, but he was soon adding to his account after securing a move to Charlton Athletic in June 2005.

In two seasons at the Valley, Bent netted an impressive 31 league goals in 68 appearances for the Addicks - figures that caught the attention of a number of potential suitors when Charlton were relegated in May 2007.

A £16.1million move to Tottenham followed, but a lack of form and increased competition for places at White Hart Lane restricted the forward to a return of just 18 goals, before he was eventually deemed surplus to requirements by Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, and was sold to Sunderland for a cut-price £10million in the summer of 2009.

Bent made an immediate impact at the Stadium of Light, seemingly relishing the new lease of life and injection of confidence given to him by Black Cats boss Steve Bruce.

The rejuvenated striker scored 32 goals in 58 appearances for Sunderland, before controversially handing in a transfer request during the 2011 January transfer window, amid reported interest from Aston Villa.

After negotiating a club-record £24million deal to bring Bent to Villa Park, the striker has quickly returned the faith and investment shown in him, with a running tally that now totals 18 goals from 35 appearance in the league - with last night's goal confirming his place amongst England's elite.

"I knew I was getting close to it and obviously I'm absolutely delighted to be in that 100-goal club," enthused Bent after last night's game. "I'm hoping there will be a few more for me too.

"I've studied the list ever since I was getting close to it, so for me to be among those names is a fantastic feeling."

Alan Shearer was the first player to reach the landmark during the 1995-96 season, and he remains the quickest player to hit 100 league goals, in just 124 appearances.

The former Newcastle and Blackburn striker finished his career on 260 league goals from 441 appearances, and sits proudly at the top of that list ahead of Andy Cole (187) and Thierry Henry (174), while Robbie Fowler (163) and Les Ferdinand (149) make up the top five.

Bent becomes the 15th English player from the revised list of 21 exclusive members, with Nicolas Anelka, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Robbie Keane, Dwight Yorke and Ryan Giggs making up the group.

Yorke made his own piece of history by becoming the first foreign player to reach 100 goals when he scored for Manchester United in a 3-0 away win over Derby County in November 2000.

Adding the likes of Michael Owen, Frank Lampard, Teddy Sheringham, Wayne Rooney, Ian Wright, Dion Dublin, Jermain Defoe, Paul Scholes and Matt Le Tissier, and you have a collective which contains some of the biggest names to have played in English football.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is the next player knocking on the door of this illustrious group with 98 goals - he will be expected to reach three figures when he returns from African Cup of Nations duty with Ivory Coast later this month.

Meanwhile, Liverpool's talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard is currently on 86 goals and will have his sights set on reaching the landmark before his playing days at Anfield are over.

No wonder Bent is so proud to have confirmed his place among an exclusive list of Premier League legends.

Topics:
Football
Premier League
Aston Villa
Darren Bent