JONATHAN WOODGATE last night wrapped up his £9m move to Newcastle and declared: "We can win the title this season.''

The England centre-back was also quick to defend his reputation in the wake of his December 2001 conviction for affray following an attack on an Asian student, insisting: "I'm not racist - I'm black and white!''

Middlesbrough-born Woodgate has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Sir Bobby Robson's Black and Whites after debt-ridden Leeds cashed in on another of their prized assets.

Woodgate, 23, is likely to be sidelined for four more weeks with a thigh injury, but believes he can still help the Magpies to their first top-flight title in 76 years.

Newcastle moved above Manchester United into second place after Wednesday's win at Tottenham, and Woodgate said: "I believe we can win the title this year.

"Why not? We're only five points behind Arsenal and they have to come here as well.

"I think we'll win a lot of trophies. It's a great young set of players and we've got a great manager.

"I'm thrilled to be here. A lot of things attracted me; the players, the manager and the 50,000 fans here every week.

"I've known Kieron Dyer for a few years and I know Andy Griffin, Alan Shearer and Gary Speed, so hopefully I'll settle in well.

"I think coming here will also help my England ambitions, and you want to play in the Champions League against the best strikers in the world like Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Raul and Crespo.''

Woodgate received 100 hours' community service following his trial at Hull Crown Court, and he admitted: "The court case was a bad time for me - the hardest in my life. I made mistakes and I've learned from my mistakes.

"I'm not a racist player - just ask Kieron Dyer and Michael Chopra here and Harpal Singh at Leeds. I'm not a racist - I'm black and white!

"I've done a few things wrong but I've got over them. I think I've become a better person for it all. I want to start afresh with Newcastle and hopefully go from strength-to-strength.''

Woodgate, who said he would be buying a home in Newcastle, thanked under-fire Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale for all his support.

Ridsdale has faced calls to quit following the sales of the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane, Lee Bowyer and Robbie Fowler, ahead of Woodgate's exit.

Manager Terry Venables is now considering his future amid fears he will walk out.

Woodgate said: "I'd been at Leeds since I was 13 and I loved it there and had some great friends there.

"I wouldn't say I was pushed out. It's hard on the chairman. He's had stick which I don't think he deserves.

"He's a very honourable man and he looked after me through thick and thin, through the court case and everything, and I'd like to thank him.

"I can understand the fans there will be upset. I loved the fans - they were brilliant to me.

"It was very hard saying goodbye to my teammates and Terry Venables is a great manager.''

Robson, who has now spent £67.5m since he took charge in September 1999, insisted: "I don't think signing Jonathan is a risk.

"I think he's perfect for us and I think he'll be a fantastic player for us. He's only 23 and has a long future here.

"We've signed him in football terms because of his ability. We know the situation he came through. He accepted his punishment and was full of remorse. He went through a time when he couldn't face football - that's how repentant he was.

"His signing is in-keeping with the policy of the club to buy young players.

"This is probably the biggest financial signing in Europe, which shows the motivation and ambition of this club.

"My chairman, Freddy Shepherd, has been very supportive. He wants Newcastle to be the best.

"We're close to what we consider the big boys - Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool - and the signing of Jonathan epitomises our drive and ambition.

"I've been wanting to bring a top-quality defender to the club. Jonathan has the right characteristics and I thought it was prudent to buy English to keep the balance right at the club, because we have a few foreign players.''

Robson sympathised with the plight of former Middlesbrough head coach Venables, but backed him to weather the storm at Leeds and remain in command.

"We understand the problems this transfer has caused Leeds,'' said Robson.

"Terry is a great colleague and friend of mine - I recommended him to Barcelona many years ago.

"I know Terry has lost a very good player in Jonathan and he's lost others of late.

"But he's a tough coach. I see he says he needs 24 hours to think about things, but I think I know what he will do.''

* Newcastle have signed former Carlisle goalkeeper Tony Caig from Hibernian for the rest of the season.

Magpies striker Richard Offiong has headed north of the border to join Motherwell on loan until the end of the season.

The 19-year-old recently returned from a two-month spell with Darlington.

And Newcastle's academy midfielder Neale McDermott has agreed a move to Fulham.

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