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Villa sign England striker Heskey

Emile Heskey
Heskey has scored for Wigan three times this season

Aston Villa have completed the signing of England striker Emile Heskey for 3.5m from Wigan.

Talks between the two clubs began on Thursday and the 31-year-old passed a medical before signing a three-and-a-half year deal with Villa.

Heskey earned his reputation under Villa manager Martin O'Neill during their time at Leicester City.

"He has been a brilliant player for a number of years and this is great news," said O'Neill.

Heskey also becomes Villa's first signing in the January transfer window and should make his debut in Tuesday's Premier League match at Portsmouth.

"I am very excited," said Heskey. "It's a big club. I am delighted to be here and I can't wait to put on the shirt."

The former Liverpool and Leicester forward will bolster Villa's attacking options, joining a strike force that includes John Carew, Marlon Harewood, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and youngster Nathan Delfouneso.

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O'Neill said: "We are in a decent position at the moment. We need to keep the momentum going. We don't have the biggest squad in the world, and currently John Carew is out and Ashley Young is suspended.

"Gabby (Agbonlahor) has done fantastic up front on his own and Emile will give us another option.

"He can play with either Gabby or John. He is currently vying to be the number one England centre forward - so in terms of value, this is a great deal for us."

Under O'Neill, Heskey helped Leicester to League Cup triumphs in 1997 and 2000, and the Northern Irishman is still grateful to Heskey for "playing fairly" by the club when he moved to Liverpool for 11m in 2000.

"I've kept an eye on Emile's career and when he's confident he's a top player," said O'Neill.

"Something levelled at Emile is that he doesn't score enough goals and I am sure he probably thinks exactly the same, but it doesn't mean he hasn't made a massive difference in other areas.

"Confidence is always a big thing for Emile. It would be difficult not to support someone who was brilliant for you. He was a young kid at Leicester and was fantastic.

"We were desperately disappointed when he moved but he said he wanted to go and play with Michael Owen at Liverpool - but he did his part for Leicester.

"He signed a new contract and we eventually got 11m for him when he could easily have gone and played abroad for a year, because of his age and rules at that time, and we wouldn't have got any money. He played fairly by Leicester."

Villa are currently fourth in the table and pushing for a Champions League spot.

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