Kevin Phillips last night voted with his feet and opted for a move to West Bromwich Albion, despite Aston Villa's desire to keep hold of him for another week and despite strong interest from Sunderland.

The former England international striker, who cost Albion £700,000, has signed a two-year contract. He made the move within an hour of being included in the Villa squad that will face Reading in the Premiership tonight.

Bryan Robson, the Albion manager, has been chasing an additional striker for most of the summer and his patience has paid off.

Phillips will vie with John Hartson and Nathan Ellington for a place in the Albion starting line-up, a competition that will enthuse Robson. "We have signed a vastlyexperienced player who has played at the top level throughout his career," he said.

"His anticipation to get himself a chance and the quality he has got in converting those chances are the reasons we have brought him here. He's also an excellent pro - that's why he's had such a successful career."

There was initially confusion concerning the future of Phillips. Martin O'Neill, the Villa manager, said yesterday that he wanted the player to remain at Villa Park but while O'Neill was expressing those sentiments, Robson was claiming that Albion had agreed a fee with Villa.

Ultimately, the final decision was left with Phillips, who decided that Albion was the most appropriate destination.

His chances of returning to the Premiership next April are strong. Had he joined Sunderland, one of his former clubs who will face Albion at the Stadium of Light next Monday evening, he might have been faced with a battle to avoid relegation to Coca-Cola League One.

"After we signed John Hartson, we've put quite a few offers in for top players but, for one reason or another, they haven't come off," Robson said.

"But we felt this move was right for the club and for the team and we're delighted it's come off.

"Kevin's a quality signing to add to the players we've already brought in this summer and managed to keep from last season.

"I have said time and again that we want to keep building the squad with quality players, not just bring people in for the sake of boosting numbers. We've had to be patient to get the right man - but that patience has paid off."

Phillips, aged 33, moved to Villa during the David O'Leary era but found that his first-team opportunities were limited because of injuries. He was never seen as a first-choice striker - O'Leary admitted as much - but as a squad player; a good professional with a good attitude; a useful substitute to throw on at appropriate times.

Significantly, Phillips had already purchased a property in the West Midlands and that was bound to be a factor when he made his decision. However, he is a cult hero in Sunderland and a move there might have inspired a revival at a club that is falling on hard times.

There is also the possibility that Milan Baros might leave Villa, which would have made Phillips a more significant figure at the club. "Nobody is pushing Kevin out of the door here," O'Neill said earlier yesterday.

"I would like him to stay but it is up to him. He will be involved in the match against Reading. He can score goals and is a good professional."

But Phillips considered these issues and still decided to move to The Hawthorns. He has quick feet and holds the ball up well. He also has a good ratio of goals scored to matches played.

Significantly, he has played most of his football in the Premiership and was always among the leading scorers, even in teams that were rarely successful.

Although Robson could be tempted to rest players when Albion play away to Leyton Orient in the League Cup tomorrow, Phillips could find a place in the starting line-up.

These are exciting times for Albion. The lack of firepower has been evident this season, although the team have begun the season well.

The arrival of Phillips will give further credence to the view that Robson is looking to create a young squad that is fortified by older, experienced players.

Certainly, Robson can potentially field the strongest striking partnership outside the Premiership.