Southgate and James turn their backs on Villa

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The Independent Online

Two England internationals left Aston Villa yesterday, making the club £10m better off. The defender Gareth Southgate formally completed his £6.5m move to Middlesbrough, and the goalkeeper David James was confirmed as a West Ham United player in a £3.5m deal.

James, who has signed a four-year contract at Upton Park, insisted he had not wanted to leave Villa. "Glenn Roeder [the West Ham manager] offered me the potential to become the regular England goalkeeper," he said. "The offer is great and opportunity is great. I want to be positive and go forward in my career. Today is a day for me to celebrate joining West Ham, so I would rather not say anything about Villa."

Neil Heitzman, a spokesman for the Aston Villa Independent Supporters' Association, reacted angrily to the departures of players who had criticised the club's failure to improve the squad. "We are dismayed at the sale of two England internationals," he said. "We now have a smaller squad than last season... If Villa do not have money for squad strengthening then it is time the board came clean."

Villa's manager, John Gregory, hopes to replace Southgate with Racing Santander's £5m Swedish international centre-back, Olof Mellberg, while the reserve goalkeeper, Peter Enckelman, will step up to take James' place.

The 26-year-old Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron flew in yesterday for a medical and to complete his British record £23.5m transfer to Manchester United from Lazio.

Sol Campbell will not make his Arsenal debut in their opening pre-season friendly at Boreham Wood tomorrow because he has yet to recover from the ankle ligament trouble which saw him miss the end of last season for Tottenham.

Newcastle United's efforts to sign the French striker Laurent Robert have run into difficulties. Their chairman, Freddy Shepherd, has offered Paris St-Germain £9.5m for Robert, but payment would be in instalments, which PSG do not like. Robert has not agreed personal terms either.

Neil Shipperley has completed a £750,000 move to Wimbledon from Barnsley. The 26-year-old striker is intended to replace Jason Euell, who joined Charlton for £4.75m last week.

John Hartson, the Wales striker who was the subject of a transfer bid from Leicester City, has said he wants to stay at Coventry City to help them pursue a Premiership return.

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