Aston Villa sign England striker Emile Heskey

England striker Emile Heskey joined Aston Villa on a 3 1/2-year deal from Wigan on Friday.

updated: January 24, 2009 10:12 IST
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England striker Emile Heskey joined Aston Villa on a 3 1/2-year deal from Wigan on Friday.

Villa's first signing of the January transfer window cost 3.5 million pounds ($4.7 million; euro3.7 million), although manager Martin O'Neill could have picked up the 31-year-old Heskey for nothing at the end of the season when his contract would have expired.

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

O'Neill was keen to be reunited with the player who helped Leicester win the English League Cup in 1997 and 2000 during their previous stint together.

"He has been a brilliant player for a number of years and this is great news," O'Neill said. "It gives us all a big boost _ the football club, myself and the players."

Villa was pushing to stay in contention for a Champions League berth with the American-owned club fourth in the Premier League standings, but struggling with injuries.

"John Carew is coming back from his back injury but is still a week or two away from being ready to return and Emile couldn't be arriving at a more opportune moment," O'Neill said. "I think he could play with Gabby (Agbonlahor) and John (Carew) and I think he will give us an enormous lift.

"I have got no doubts that he will improve us and will help to improve Gabby and other players around him."

After three years out of the England team, Heskey's international career was revived in 2007 under Steve McClaren and he has continued to feature under current coach Fabio Capello.

Heskey joined Liverpool from Leicester in 2000 and after more than 100 appearances moved to Villa's rival, Birmingham City, where he stayed until shifting to Wigan in 2006.

"He has a lot of experience and a host of international caps," O'Neill said. "He has also pulled himself round again when he may have perhaps seen his best days were behind him when he left Liverpool.

"He has done fantastically well to fight back, so much so that he is now well and truly in Fabio Capello's thoughts."