Emile Heskey takes Aston Villa medical after Wigan agree fee

23 January 2009 12:07
Emile Heskey was undergoing a medical at Aston Villa this afternoon after the Midlands club, for whom he will sign on a three-and-a-half-year contract, agreed a £3.5 million fee with Wigan.

The England forward is thought to have agreed personal terms and will later this afternoon reunite with Villa manager Martin O'Neill, under whom he made his name at Leicester.

The rest of the team are travelling to a hotel in Doncaster in anticipation of tomorrow's FA Cup fourth round against Doncaster Rovers – a match Heskey will not feature in, the deadline for declaring the squads for the match having passed at midday – but O'Neill will wait at the club's training ground to welcome Heskey.

Heskey had been expected to wait until the summer before leaving Wigan on a free transfer, so as to command a greater personal transfer fee, but O'Neill has convinced him to move this month.

O'Neill worked with Heskey at Leicester City for five seasons, and he earmarked the 31-year-old as a possible signing 12 months ago, but a back injury to the club's only other first-choice striker, John Carew, and the suspension of Ashley Young for three matches after his red card at Sunderland, made a new signing this month imperative.

It is understood that his relationship with the forward, coupled with the promise of regular first-team football, played a significant part in convincing Heskey to move to Villa Park, rather than rejoining Liverpool in the summer.

O'Neill said: "Of course, I have kept an eye on Emile's career. Something levelled at Emile is that he doesn't score enough goals and I am sure he probably thinks exactly the same. But it doesn't mean he hasn't made a massive difference in other areas. Confidence is always a big thing with Emile. When his confidence is high, he is always a player."

For their part, Wigan had been outwardly unwilling to release Heskey, who they signed for £5.5 million in July 2006.

While their chairman Dave Whelan initially seemed to have been open to the idea of cashing in on Heskey before his contract expired, Steve Bruce, the Wigan manager, is believed to have convinced him otherwise.

Indeed, Bruce stated publicly only days ago that he would not sanction the release of any other big name player after agreeing to sell Wilson Palacios to Tottenham, unless the club were presented with an 'outrageous' offer.

However, the arrival of two strikers this week, Mido from Middlesbrough and Rodallega from Mexican club Necaxa, has persuaded Wigan to release Heskey now, rather than release him on a free transfer in the summer.

Although Heskey has scored just three league goals this season, against Hull, Portsmouth and Blackburn, O'Neill believes he will compliment Gabriel Agbonlahor, who has been relied upon to spearhead the club's commitments in the Premier League, the Uefa Cup and FA Cup.

He will also add a new, necessary dynamic to a team who have relied on counter-attacking football so far this season.

It has been clear for some time, despite talk of competition for first team places, that Agbonlahor has been O'Neill's only realistic option in attack.

Marlon Harewood has shown disappointing development, and his future at the club is uncertain, while Nathan Delfouneso, the promising 17-year-old reserve forward, is far from ready to adopt a more significant role at the club.

Source: Telegraph

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