O'Neill's delight at Belgian signing

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The Independent Online

The new Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, has revealed that he broke the habit of a lifetime by by spending £3.8m on the defender Joos Valgaeren, because the Belgian international had simply showed too much quality during Euro 2000 to ignore.

The new Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, has revealed that he broke the habit of a lifetime by by spending £3.8m on the defender Joos Valgaeren, because the Belgian international had simply showed too much quality during Euro 2000 to ignore.

O'Neill finally got his man with just hours to go before his side's season-opening fixture at Dundee United today, but believes he was worth the wait. "I'm very, very pleased," O'Neill said. "I watched him in Euro 2000, but I have always been concerned about picking players from a competition.

"However, you can see he is a very strong lad and very competitive and he wants to win and I think he will be a big asset to us. I thought that from the start and I'm really pleased he's signed. It seemed to take a long time, but the days when you just rung up a football club and a player jumped on a plane if he fancied coming seem to have gone."

O'Neill is hoping Valgaeren's arrival will add stability to Celtic's defence and could even give his new signing a debut today. "It's possible that he could play," O'Neill admitted. "I'm trying to formulate a team in my head at the moment. He looks in reasonably decent condition but I will decide on the day because the position is pretty important."

The Dundee United manager, Paul Sturrock, is anticipating a difficult opening to the new season against O'Neill's men, but feels the sense of occasion will help lift his players.

"We could not have asked for a better opening game to the season than Celtic," Sturrock said. "We are assured of a big crowd, and that will be a fantastic bonus for everyone. I will be looking for an improvement in our home form and I hope we can start that improvement against Celtic."

"I know it will be very hard to do against Celtic with Martin O'Neill in charge. Their players will be hoping to impress the new manager. But then again, Celtic have always had determined and skilful players."

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