The surprise was that it was no surprise. Chris Sutton, former Birmingham City striker, friend of Martin O'Neill, has signed a contract with Aston Villa that will keep him at Villa Park until the end of the season.

The player who flourished under O'Neill with Celtic has become the third player to sign for Villa - Stiliyan Petrov and Didier Agathe are the others - since O'Neill moved to Villa Park on August 4.

Sutton, aged 33, failed with Birmingham last season but scored 86 goals in 199 appearances for Celtic from 2000 to 2005.

It is clear that Sutton, a free agent, has been signed because Luke Moore, the young Villa striker, is suffering with a shoulder injury that could take six months to heal.

But the move will not please every Villa supporter. Sutton did not come close to fulfilling his reputation with Birmingham and was part of a team that endured relegation.

Indeed, Sutton's only significant contribution for Birmingham came when he scored against Villa at Villa Park on April 16. But Birmingham's 3-1 defeat made relegation likely and eased Villa's concerns.

Sutton was mocked by a section of Villa supporters that day as his partnership up front with Emile Heskey failed to sparkle.

Conversely, O'Neill has proved that he can bring out the best in Sutton, which will add intrigue to the story and will give Villa supporters hope that the striker will be a useful addition, if only as cover.

"I had five great years at Celtic under Martin O'Neill," Sutton said last night. "I'm looking forward to getting started at Villa, Hopefully, I can fit in fairly well and knowing Stiliyan Petrov and Didier Agathe will obviously help.

"I don't feel I've got a point to prove. I just want to do well. First and foremost, I want to get fully fit and get into contention.

"I'll hopefully do that sooner rather than later and the aim is to soon be pushing for a starting place.

"Obviously, I want to be fit as soon as I can. I had an operation a while back and I'm still recovering from that."

The transfer window does not open until January 1, meaning that O'Neill's options were somewhat limited. He can sign players who are free agents but cannot make any transfers for three months.

For now, O'Neill will probably use Juan Pablo Angel and Milan Baros up front as part of a 4-4-2 formation, with Gabriel Agbonlahor likely to be used as a right winger. Prior to Moore's injury, O'Neill used a 4-3-2-1 formation that proved to be relatively successful.

Villa are enjoying their best start to a Premiership season since 1998 and, after seven matches, are unbeaten. But the injury to Moore has emphasised the lack of depth in the squad. Indeed, O'Neill has expressed concern about how few players he has available.

Sutton is sure to be only a temporary answer as it is likely that O'Neill will sign a younger striker in January but he can play as a centre back, which will provide O'Neill with cover in another vulnerable area.

Sutton began his career with Norwich City before making a then British record #5 million move to Blackburn Rovers, where he won a Premiership title in 1995.

He moved to Chelsea for #10 million in July 1999 but the move to west London was disappointing and he switched to Celtic, where he was a key part of the successful O'Neill era. Sutton's total return in England and Scotland is 195 goals in 498 starts.

He controversially won only one England cap, against Cameroon in 1998, after his refusal to play in an England B match caused Glenn Hoddle, then the head coach, to doubt the striker's commitment.

Sutton will be the 55th player to have represented Villa and Birmingham and the first since Dwight Yorke, who played for Birmingham early in the 2004-05 season.

Among Sutton's previous striking partners are Alan Shearer (Blackburn Rovers) and Henrik Larrson (Celtic).

O'Neill's first three signings are all players with whom he worked at Parkhead. One is reminded of Brian Clough, who, in the Seventies, worked with John McGovern and John O'Hare for Derby County and Nottingham Forest. O'Neill, who played under Clough with Forest, appears to have a similar policy, having worked with Neil Lennon at Leicester City and Celtic.