City snap up James with Pardew set to reinvest

Keegan solves goalkeeper crisis as England No 1 returns to Premiership while West Ham manager looks to promotion prospects
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The Independent Football

David James is looking forward to making his Premiership return this weekend after completing his move to Manchester City for an undisclosed fee.

The England goalkeeper yesterday signed a two-and-a-half-year deal at the City of Manchester Stadium after deciding to leave First Division West Ham. City made their move for the 33-year-old following the retirement of the veteran keeper David Seaman, and James is expected to make his City debut in Saturday's crucial Premiership encounter with Blackburn.

"I'm delighted to be here," James said. "It's a fantastic move for me. I'm back in the Premiership, but it was tough for me to leave West Ham, I had a lot of friends there."

City had been short of experienced cover for Seaman all season, but their need became even more pressing after the former Arsenal No 1 was injured against Portsmouth last Saturday. With the club having failed to win in 14 games, Keegan decided to act quickly and approached West Ham on Tuesday morning. Seaman's decision was then announced last night.

The former Liverpool keeper said he was surprised by the speed with which the move went through. "I didn't expect things to happen so quickly. It's happened in the last 24 hours." he said. "On Tuesday morning there were rumours brewing. David injured his shoulder on Saturday and because of the speculation last season that draws your attention. But it was after training yesterday when Alan Pardew pulled me aside and had a chat with me."

Pardew, the West Ham manager, wants Fulham's Welsh international goalkeeper, Mark Crossley, to replace James. If Fulham are reluctant, he will ask Chelsea about Neil Sullivan as a loan alternative.

James, who was assured by the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, last summer that West Ham's relegation would not affect his chances of playing for the national team, said: "I don't envisage any problems settling in at City. I have worked with Kevin Keegan before with the England squad and know several of the lads from my days with Liverpool and West Ham.

"Everyone knows what a big club City is with fantastic facilities, great fans and great ambition. I am just pleased to be back in the Premiership and can't wait for my debut."

Keegan said: "We've been looking to strengthen the goalkeeping position, and to secure the England No 1 is terrific news."

Though the fee paid for James is believed to be nominal, his departure from the Hammers' payroll means that Pardew believes the move can give his side their best chance of winning promotion by providing him with transfer-market funds.

Pardew had warned of "significant changes" after his side lost 2-1 at home to Preston last weekend, claiming he needed better players if West Ham were to return to the top flight at the first attempt.

"The fact is that the money from this transfer will fund the acquisition of players that I feel will increase our chances of promotion at the first attempt - and that is the sole reasoning behind my agreeing to it," Pardew said.

"Obviously people will have to wait and see who those players are, but I am confident in the long run, disappointed as we are to be losing an England international, this move will benefit the club.

"I am looking to bring in another keeper, and I am also looking to strengthen the outfield to a considerable degree so we can progress as soon as possible. While you never like to see a player of David's quality leave your club, this is a move which, when you look at the bigger picture, is suitable for all parties.

"The sale is in no way a reflection of David's ability or character - don't forget I made him captain recently - but it was a case of prioritising."

A spokesperson for the West Ham Supporters' Trust was not impressed, however, saying: "We are sick of West Ham being a selling club. How many more players have to be sold?"

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