SCHMEICHEL MAKES SHOCK VILLA MOVE
By Peter O`Rourke
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The former Danish international has signed a one-year deal with Villa with the option of another year.
Schmeichel will fill the void left by David James, who has left for West Ham United and his experience will provide valuable for young Finnish goalkeeper Peter Enckleman who is viewed as the club's long-term alternative for the goalkeeping spot.
The 37-year-old shot-stopper has spent the last two seasons at Sporting Lisbon but he has decided to make a surprise return to The Premiership.
The player's agent Paul Stretford confirmed the surprise swoop for the veteran keeper.
"He has definitely gone to Villa," Stretford told planetfootball. "He has signed a one-year deal with the option of another year."
Schmeichel admits he hopes Manchester United supporters will not hold the decision to return to England against him.
"I found out that I wasn't ready to retire," he admitted. "I still have a lot of football left in me and, once the decision has been made to stay on, there was only one place to play - The Premiership.
"It is where I started playing football and I've always liked the atmosphere, the people and the whole set-up.
"It wasn't that difficult to make my mind up. United are another thing and something I have to accept.
"It took me some time to get around that but, hopefully, people will respect me for my reasons for coming back.
"I want to play for Villa and I still have the hunger and desire to play football.
"United have the best keeper in the world now and I could never come back but I still wanted to play in England.
"It is going to be difficult for me but a lot of people around Manchester too. But I still love United.
"No disrespect to Villa but I have so many fond memories of United and so many friends there, and I hope people respect my decision to come here.
"My best memory of here is the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal but it is a big football club and has some good players, some I have played with before, and the new stand looks really good.
"It is important for me to see that some money is going in and the commitment is there to go forward.
"For me this is the right environment." Villa boss John Gregory was understandbly delighted at having signed the Dane and admitted he hoped he would bring some success to the club.
"Peter Schmeichel is a winner through and through and he is as hungry as ever to be successful," said Gregory.
"He has a fantastic reputation in the Premiership from his time with Manchester United and he is not going to want to have any stains on that reputation.
"He will come in as my number one goalkeeper for this season. He has signed a one-year contract with a one-year option.
"I've already put pressure on him because he has won a Championship medal at every club he has been at.
"He is purely here to keep goal although he has liked to move up field occasionally.''