It was an act of positive desperation that enabled West Bromwich Albion to sign Curtis Davies from Luton Town on Wednesday night.

The deal, which cost Albion £ 3 million, was rushed through just 120 seconds before the transfer deadline closed at midnight and surprised everybody concerned - including the player himself.

Mike Newell, the Luton manager, was taken aback at Albion's fortitude.

"West Brom were desperate to sign the player," Newell said. "I didn't believe anyone would get there before the deadline but West Brom pushed the boat out."

Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur considered making offers for Davies, a 20-year-old central defender who has been signed as much for the present as for the future. At 6ft 2in, he will be easy to notice.

Davies signed a four-year contract and could make his debut for the match at home to Wigan Athletic on September 10.

Bryan Robson, the Albion manager, has been tracking Davies since the end of last season but the need for a new defender is greater now because of the errors that have contributed to successive defeats - against Chelsea and Birmingham - in the Premiership.

It is possible that Davies has been signed to replace Thomas Gaardsoe, the Denmark international defender, who has endured a wretched time so far this season.

It is not Robson's style to publicly criticise individual players. He merely expressed his delight at having greater competition for places.

"I was really impressed when I saw Curtis play for Luton and our scouts, who have been monitoring him since the end of last season, have been coming back with great reports," Robson said.

"I believe he's got a really good future in the game. Although he's still got a lot of development ahead of him, he's exactly the type of player I want to keep bringing into this club.

"He'll fit in really nicely with all the other good young players we've got here, like Nathan Ellington, Robert Earnshaw, Richard Chaplow and Darren Carter. We want to keep bringing really good young players in and Curtis is one of the most outstanding young centre halves I've seen for some time.

"Curtis proved in his few games in the Coca-Cola Championship that he could compete against the better centre forwards at that level.

"So there's no reason why he can't make another step up and challenge Thomas, Neil and Darren for a place in the team. Our centre halves have got to be on their toes because they've got a young, enthusiastic player coming up on the rails behind them."

If Robson needs a reference regarding Davies, he only needs to contact Newell.

"I'm sure Curtis is good enough for the Premiership already," Newell said. "He has a real hunger and a great attitude. He doesn't think he knows it all already, he is really willing to learn.

"I believe he'll play in the Premiership this season. A lot of the clubs that were sniffing around him were looking more longer term, but I think Bryan Robson will play him this season. We would never stand in the way of a player if he gets the chance to step up."

Albion's match against Bradford City in the second round of the Carling Cup will take place at The Hawthorns on Tuesday September 20 (7.45pm).

* Birmingham City utility man Olivier Tebily has agreed a new contract which will keep him at St Andrew's until 2008. The Ivory Coast international joined the Blues from Celtic in the summer of 2002 and has made 59 appearances for the club.