Paul Ince has made Paul Robinson his first signing as Blackburn boss, paying Tottenham £3.5million for the Tottenham goalkeeper.Long-serving keeper Brad Friedel looks set to complete his £2million move to Aston Villa after Rovers gave permission for the midlands club to speak to the American and Ince has wasted no time in securing an experienced replacement after agreeing a five-year deal with Robinson. The 28-year-old will be hoping for a fresh start at Ewood Park after a remarkable fall from grace at White Hart Lane which started when he was dropped as England's number one, and ended with his first-team spot under Juande Ramos threatened by Radek Cerny and summer signing Heurelho Gomes.
On the surface, Ince's first deal as a Premier League manager looks to be a shrewd one as Robinson is nine years Friedel's junior.The size of the transfer fee is also a modest one for a player who was undisputed England number one under successive coaches before Scott Carson's shock selection by Steve McClaren in the fateful match against Croatia last November. But 37-year-old Friedel enjoyed a significantly more impressive season than his would-be replacement last year, building on his reputation as one of the top-flight's most consistent performers while Robinson's reputation floundered. A January horror show against Reading was the last straw in a series of below-par performances and led to new Spurs chief Ramos dropping Robinson in favour of his unheralded deputy, Cerny, for 10 matches. But the former Leeds man, who joined Tottenham for £1.5million in 2005, responded positively to his demotion and battled back to regain his place in time to play in the Carling Cup final. He produced some important saves in the surprise 2-1 defeat of Chelsea, helping to end the north London club's silverware drought in the process. Joyous scenes of celebration at the end of the match even suggested his reconciliation with Ramos could be complete. But while the Spanish coach wasted little time in bringing in Brazil stopper Gomes for from PSV, his performance in the League Cup showpiece goes to show that Ince has brought in a man still capable of turning in top-drawer performances at the highest level. Friedel, meanwhile, could become a Villa player in the next couple of days, providing they see off late interest from Manchester City -- currently managed by Friedel's former Rovers boss Mark Hughes. Villa manager O'Neill told the club's official website, www.avfc.co.uk: 'We've been given permission to talk to the player and that's something that we want to do. But there are still lots of things to happen. 'We're in the process of strengthening the squad and this is all part of our efforts to add strength in depth.' Former England captain Ince would like to add further new signings to his squad before the start of the new campaign but will be equally focused on ensuring the likes of David Bentley and Roque Santa Cruz do not follow Friedel out of the club.