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Wednesday, 17 January, 2001, 17:59 GMT
Hammers land Norwegian star
Harry Redknapp
Redknapp needs a replacement for Rio Ferdinand
West Ham boss Harry Redknapp has completed the signing of Norway's under-21 captain Ragnvald Soma.

The Hammers have agreed a 800,000 fee with Norwegian outfit Bryne.

Soma, captain of his country's under-21 side, says he cannot wait to get to Upton Park to fight for a place in the starting line-up.

"Now I'm at West Ham I'm looking forward to getting started and obviously my aim is to get anywhere in the team but my favourite position is centre-back," Soma told the West Ham website.

"I know there will be lots of competition but it's my job and I have to work at it.

"I hope to be one of those playing every week - for now, I will get training, and when I get the chance, do the best I can."

Drinking slur

The transfer appeared to have collapsed following a report in a newspaper that Soma had claimed West Ham had a "drinking culture".

But Soma explained his comments had been taken out of context.

"Many months ago I made an off-the-cuff remark about how English football was perceived in other countries.

"I was talking about the past and how the drinking culture hadn't been too good a few years back, but the things I said were suddenly brought up again and got twisted in the press.

"When I said it it was because of things you'd hear all the time about holidays and training weeks outside the country.

"But there are so many foreigners here now and the programme is getting tougher - so players know they can't go out and get drunk a couple of times a week.

"When I was on trial here I never once got the impression that West Ham was a club that was drinking and partying all the time. If that was the case I wouldn't have been tempted to join."

Redknapp has been linked with a number of defenders recently in his bid to fill the void left by 18m Rio Ferdinand.

Redknapp says he has agreed a 1.75m fee for Blackburn's Christian Dailly but has always made it clear he wanted more than one replacement.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 |  West Ham Utd
Dailly set to join Hammers
11 Dec 00 |  Aston Villa
Hammers target Southgate
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