Stiliyan Petrov has hit back at the Sunderland fans who hurled abuse at old-boy Darren Bent during their 2-2 draw with Aston Villa at the weekend.
The 27-year-old hit the net 32 times in 58 league games with the club before heading to the Midlands in an £18m deal in January.
And Villa skipper Petrov revealed the taunts Bent received on his return to Wearside left the England man in shock.
He said: "When you come back to a club where you have had such a great time and you are on the end of a reception like that, it is really painful.
"Of course, he is hurt by it. Who wouldn't be? In fact, he was really surprised by just how loud the booing was.
"I don't think he thought it would be that bad. But whatever happens, he will still carry on scoring goals for us.
"It was a difficult situation. Darren had a great time here but the fans were on his back from the start, booing him and jeering him but luckily he is a strong boy and very strong mentally too.
"We spoke to him before the game and he said 'I had a great time here'.
"We asked how will you react if you score and he insisted he would not celebrate. He would leave it to the rest of us.
"The fans here probably don't realise that. He paid them respect. He respects them yet when he comes out, he gets all that stick."