Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has confirmed the signing of Middlesbrough defender Joe Bennett on a four-year deal, for an undisclosed fee. The England Under-21 left-back has penned a contract to keep him with the Midlands club until the end of the 2015-16 season and is reported to have cost in the region of £2.5million.
The 22-year-old left-back has been lauded by Boro boss Tony Mowbray for his "quality, speed and technique" and for Lambert his youthful enthusiasm, desire and energy proved compelling. "Joe's a really good player, young and hungry to succeed and he's exactly the type of player we want here at the football club," Lambert said in a statement released by the club.
"I am really excited to have joined a massive club in Aston Villa and I'm eager to fight for a starting place and get in the team," Bennett said. "It's up to the manager to pick the team, of course, but it would be great to go back to the north east this weekend and make my debut against Newcastle at St James' Park.
"When I first heard about the move a lot of things ran through my head. There was excitement and nerves and most of all a real buzz about the prospect of coming to Villa and playing in the Premier League. Now that it's come around so fast, I'm just raring to go. I've had a look around the stadium and the training ground and the facilities are top-class. You can tell straight away this is a massive club.
"I know a few of the players from England Under-21s, the likes of Nathan Delfouneso and Nathan Baker and that will help in terms of settling in. I'm looking forward to it. My approach has always been to get forward and try to create things. In my opinion Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy are the best full-backs around and if I keep working on my game and improving it I know I can succeed at this level and help the team.
"It was not long ago that I was given my professional debut at Middlesbrough by Gareth Southgate and it is a real privilege to now follow in his footsteps and join a club with Villa's heritage. I am very grateful to get this opportunity and I'm very grateful to the Middlesbrough chairman, Mr. Gibson, all of the Middlesbrough staff and fans and, particularly, Tony Mowbray for giving me the opportunity to prove my ability.
"I am fully focused now on my career here at Villa and I'm really eager to get started. My priority will be to impress the manager and gain a place in the starting XI. It will be a special moment when I pull on the claret and blue shirt for the first time. I'm determined to earn the respect of my team-mates and the Aston Villa supporters. I know it's going to be really exciting here in the years ahead and I really want to play my part."