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The BBC's Pat Murphy
"Southgate has the intelligence to test himself abroad"
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Leon Hickman, Birmingham Evening Mail
"Fans feel Villa are not showing the right kind of ambition"
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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
Southgate wants to quit Villa
Gareth Southgate
Southgate wants away from Villa Park
England defender Gareth Southgate has confirmed he wants to leave Aston Villa.

The 29-year-old faxed a transfer request to Villa Park only hours before flying out with the national side to Belgium ahead of Euro 2000.

The shock news follows talks between Villa's captain and manager John Gregory just three weeks after their defeat by Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.

Southgate told The Daily Telegraph: "This is something that has been going through my mind for the last few months.

If I am to achieve in my career, it is time to move on

Gareth Southgate on why he wants to leave Aston Villa

"It is not a decision that has been easy but my mind is made up. I have given everything to Villa over the last five years.

"But if I am to achieve in my career, it is time to move on."

The club responded in a statement, saying: "Gareth Southgate is contracted to Aston Villa Football Club for a further period of three years and remains an Aston Villa player for this period.

"Gareth and the manager are out of the country at present and the manager will be discussing the matter with Gareth at the earliest possible opportunity."

Gareth Southgate
Southgate feels "it's time to move on"
Southgate's decision will clearly come as a shock to Villa fans, who have come to rely on the former Crystal Palace man as their defensive stalwart.

The timing of his request is also somewhat surprising given Southgate will now be out of the country for some time with England.

But he insisted getting his decision out into the open was the best way forward for all concerned.

"It is better for me to be up front," he continued. "My mind will be focused only on England in the coming weeks and everything else will be put on the back burner.

Possible destinations

"I have looked at all aspects of my position with Villa and perhaps the fans will be disappointed. But players come and go and the club will go on.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity Villa gave me and taking into consideration the profit they would make on me, I feel I have repaid them."

Southgate factfile
1990: Debut for Crystal Palace.
1995: Moves to Villa for 3m.
1995-96: Makes 31 appearances in new role as defender and skippers Villa to League Cup win over Leeds.
1996: Key player for England in Euro 96 but penalty miss sees England lose semi-final shootout with Germany.
1997-98: Upsets boss Brian Little by publicly questioning the club's ambition.
1998-99: Again ever-present for Villa, scoring one goal in 38 games.
2000: Leads Villa to FA Cup Final but beaten by Chelsea at Wembley.

Southgate moved to Villa Park from Crystal Palace for 3m in July 1995 but may command a fee double that amount for a transfer this summer.

Interested clubs are likely to include Chelsea, who will be looking for replacements if, and when, French defenders Frank Leboeuf and Marcel Desailly move on.

Other possible destinations for Southgate include Arsenal, with their ageing back line, along with Newcastle and Leeds.

Southgate may also fancy testing his undoubted ability and footballing brain abroad, but will need to perform well at Euro 2000 to convince foreign clubs he would be a worthwhile investment.

Aston Villa boss John Gregory meanwhile is sure to face a difficult summer, with Southgate's transfer request coming on top of similar declarations from Ugo Ehiogu and Julian Joachim, and the future of Italian star Benito Carbone no closer to being resolved.

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See also:

13 May 00 | Squad
Gareth Southgate
08 Jan 00 | FA Cup
Southgate strikes again
04 May 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Gregory nets new Villa deal
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