MARK Yeates signed a three year contract to become Middlesbrough’s first summer signing yesterday, and immediately claimed he had joined the best squad in the Championship.

Yeates completed a £500,000 move from Colchester United yesterday after agreeing personal terms and completing a medical.

The 24-year-old Dubliner, who is equally at home in an attacking midfield or a left or right-wing berth, had a brief taste of life in the Premier League when he was a trainee with Tottenham Hotspur.

And having committed himself to the Riverside for the next three seasons, he is confident he will improve his tally of three Premier League appearances before his newlysigned contract is at an end.

“Playing alongside topclass players can only bring the best out in me, and Boro have some excellent players,”

said Yeates, who was Colchester’s leading scorer last season with 12 goals in League One.

“I’m just trying to make a name for myself but it seems to me that Middlesbrough have one of the best squads, if not the best, in the Championship and I’m excited to be here.

“I think I belong at a club like this. For one reason or another, I don’t think a lot of the younger lads at Tottenham got an opportunity.

“But I have a fantastic desire to get back to the Premier League and get back to playing in front of big crowds. I know Middlesbrough have a big following and I’m looking forward to playing in front of those fans.”

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate tracked Yeates’ progress throughout the whole of last season, and while Crystal Palace, Bristol City and Sheffield United also expressed an interest in the Irishman, the Teessiders were the first to make a formal move.

Yeates was aware of the competition from elsewhere, but once Boro had shown their hand, his mind was made up.

“Bristol City, Palace and Sheffield United were all interested,”

he said. “But once I heard that Middlesbrough were in touch then there was only one place I wanted to go.

“The gaffer made it very clear how much he wanted me and that was a great feeling.

He seems absolutely spot on.

He is 110 per cent clear about what he expects of people. He told me that he only wants players who have a hunger. He certainly has that in me.”

Yeates’ capture completes a successful week for Southgate, who also persuaded Matthew Bates to sign a new three-year deal with Middlesbrough rather than pursue alternative options with Everton and West Ham.

Yeates’ arrival bolsters Boro’s options on the flanks, and means the club have plenty of cover should they opt to sell Stewart Downing before the transfer window closes on August 31. Downing’s situation remains uncertain, however, because of a foot injury that will sideline him until at least the end of September.

“We’ve got a lad (Yeates) who has played in this division before and scored a lot of goals over the last two seasons,”

said Southgate. “He has a real hunger to play for our football club and a great desire to go beyond that and play for his national side. He is really looking forward to helping us try to win promotion.”

Southgate received more good news yesterday when Aston Villa called off their pursuit of centre-half David Wheater.

Villa boss Martin O’Neill had been lining up an £8m bid for the Redcar-born defender, but Boro officials have consistently claimed that Wheater will remain a key component of the club’s squad for next season.

With Wheater showing little desire to leave the Riverside, O’Neill has opted to turn his attentions elsewhere and target a more experienced centre-half to replace the recently-retired Martin Laursen.