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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 00:29 GMT
Robson hails 'perfect' Woodgate
Jonathan Woodgate has joined the Toon Army
Jonathan Woodgate has joined the Toon Army
Newcastle United boss Sir Bobby Robson labelled Jonathan Woodgate as the "perfect" signing after he completed his 9m move from Leeds United.

Woodgate was paraded by Newcastle at a news conference - and insisted he was joining a side who will be challenging for the Premiership in seasons to come.

The England defender also insisted he was a changed character after his court cases last year.

Woodgate said: "I'm thrilled. I loved it at Leeds and made lots of friends and I'm sad to be leaving, but to be playing in front of more than 50,000 fans every week will be magnificent.

"I wasn't pushed out at Leeds. The chairman Peter Ridsdale has had a lot of stick, but he is a very honourable man who stuck by me through thick and thin.

ROBSON'S BIG DEALS
Laurent Robert 9.5m
Jonathan Woodgate 9m from Leeds
Hugo Viana 8.5m
Carl Cort 7m
Craig Bellamy 6m
Jermaine Jenas 5m

"I think this squad has a chance of the championship this year, next year and for years to come. Newcastle have got some magnificent young players."

Robson said: "He is perfect for us. There is no such thing as the complete jigsaw in football, but for now he could be regarded as the last piece for us.

"He is a good age. He's in keeping with the policy of the club and he is English, which I felt was important in maintaining the balance of the squad."

The Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale has had a lot of stick, but he is a very honourable man who stuck by me through thick and thin

Jonathan Woodgate

The 23-year-old defender, who is currently out of action with a thigh injury, travelled to Tyneside on Thursday and underwent a medical earlier on Friday.

Woodgate was found guilty of affray last year, and his signing has sparked some protests among Newcastle fans.

But he said: "I made mistakes. I have learned from them and I am not a racist."

Chairman Shepherd admitted the negotiations had been protracted, but said Woodgate was worth the wait.

"It could be one of the biggest signings in Newcastle's history," he declared.

"He's only 23 and he's got a long way to go. He's got all the ingredients to be a top international."

"It's been an awkward deal, as it's obviously a difficult time for Leeds at the moment, but I have to thank them for their co-operation."

Woodgate will take Robson's spending since the end of last season to well over 20m, following the arrival of midfielder Hugo Viana and former Ipswich defender Titus Bramble.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd
"We are delighted"
Newcastle defender Jonathan Woodgate
"I'm hoping to be in action soon"
Leeds United in crisis

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