Flashback 1992-93: Striker Saunders finally unveiled
Paper: Birmingham Post
Dean Saunders will make his debut as Aston Villa's record £2.25m signing at Elland Road on Sunday, convinced that Ron Atkinson has invested in a powerful challenge to Leeds United's title.
Two weeks of fretful negotiations reached a happy conclusion when the 28-year-old Welsh international completed his transfer from Liverpool in time for Sunday's televised clash with the League Champions.
Intriguingly, Saunders will make his first home appearance a week tomorrow against the very club that cashed in on his talents with three quarters of a four-year contract still to run.
"In no way do I see this move as a step down," Saunders said.
"Villa are as big as any club. They have outstanding individual players and a team capable of beating any in the Premier League.
"They have as good a chance as Liverpool or anyone else of winning major trophies."
The Saunders deal not only meant Atkinson breaking Villa's transfer record for the third time in thirteen months but took his total turnover to more than £20m, with some £4.2m spent on Liverpool players.
The breakdown in talks caused friction between Atkinson and chairman Doug Ellis but it was all smiles and mutual praise when Saunders finally put pen to paper at Villa Park.
"Dean scored 23 goals for Liverpool last season and won an FA Cup winners medal," Atkinson said.
"If he did that for Aston Villa, it would earn him the freedom of the city.
"I'm as excited about this signing as any I have made in my career. He's a predator - the best in the business when it comes to scoring goals. He's also quick and a tireless worker.
"It's been a long, drawn-out saga getting him to Villa Park but I'm relieved and delighted that it's all over now. Dean will wear the No.9 shirt - he won't be asked to take on different roles. His job is simply to attack the goal."
The striker rated by Atkinson as one of Europe's finest made light of Liverpool's decision to sell their record £2.9m buy after just a year.
"It must have been something I said," he remarked. "I was told that the team needed strengthening and that I was the player who could attract the most money.
"I scored 23 goals for them last season but I know I could have scored more.
"When you cost that kind of money, you tend to be criticised for every chance you miss. But I don't regret going to Liverpool. I'm a better player now than when I joined them.
"It was one man's opinion that I had to go and after talking to Ron Atkinson I knew where my next move would be. I have joined a club that will win trophies."
Paper: Birmingham Post
Dean Saunders takes his bow tomorrow as an Aston Villa player having heeded the CBI's call for wage restraint and accepted a swingeing 50% cut.
Any sympathy may be leavened by the knowledge that that leaves him with a paltry £4,000 a week.
But in the mercenary world of professional football it is an unusual step, commended by his manager Ron Atkinson.
"I'm not sure many players would have moved," said Atkinson.
"He could have sat there in the reserves or whatever and seen out his contract but he is what I would call an old-fashioned player and wants to play.
"He has taken a drop in wages of almost 50%. I think he wants to be appreciated. I told him 'you can be the king here, whereas at Liverpool he was just one of a number."
Paper: Sunday Mercury
Aston Villa goalkeeper Nigel Spink goes into today's live TV game against champions Leeds United with a message for England manager Graham Taylor: "Bring me back - I'm the best in the land."
On the day when most eyes will be on £2.3m signing Dean Saunders in his Villa debut, the 34-year-old keeper is hoping to step up his own claims for an international recall.
Spink, who has only one full England cap to his name, but is currently looking as good as any keeper in the country, said: "I am performing as well as ever and I'm still as ambitious to make it back into the international team.
"I feel in my own heart that I'm as good as, if not better, than anybody in the England set-up. That's what keeps me hoping I will break back."
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