VERSATILE defender Chris Baird has today become Albion’s third signing of the summer.
The 32-year-old has penned a one-year deal, which includes a further performance-related 12-month option, after agreeing personal terms and passing a medical.
Baird was available on a free transfer following the completion of his two-month contract at Burnley, where he helped the Clarets secure automatic promotion to the Barclays Premier League.
The 6ft 1in player, who has eight years of top-flight experience and won his 65th cap for Northern Ireland against Uruguay in May, can operate at left- and right-back, as a defensive midfield player or at centre-half.
Head coach Alan Irvine said: “I’d like to officially welcome Chris to the club.
“Chris is a player with vast Premier League and international experience who reads the game well and has good positional sense.
“He can play in several positions and his versatility effectively makes your squad bigger.
“It’s important we have the right characters in the dressing room and Chris is certainly that.
“We have done our homework on him. I have spoken to a lot of different people who have either managed or played with Chris and everyone spoke very, very highly of him both as a player and a person.”
Baird will train with his new team-mates – including fellow new signings Joleon Lescott and Craig
Gardner – today as the players begin pre-season training.
Technical director Terry Burton added: “We see Chris as an ideal addition to the squad we are building for the new season.
“The great thing about Chris is that he can provide competition and cover for so many positions, particularly at full-back, where we’re still looking to strengthen both at left- and right-back.
“He is a player the club have looked at signing on several occasions. I know Chris from my Watford days and Roy Hodgson loved working with him at Fulham.”
Baird came through the ranks at Southampton and made his first-team debut as a late sub in a Premier League clash with Villa in 2003. Only his second start for the South Coast club came in the 2003 FA Cup final, which the Saints narrowly lost 1-0 to Arsenal.
Baird, who gained valuable experience during short-term loan spells at Albion’s neighbours Walsall and Watford during his early days as a first-team player, made 79 appearances for Southampton before joining Premier League outfit Fulham for a reported £3million-plus fee in the summer of 2007.
He played 160 times during six years at Craven Cottage and was an integral part of Hodgson’s side that reached the Europa League final in 2010, starting alongside another Hawthorns favourite, Zoltan Gera, in the 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid.
After leaving Fulham last summer, Baird, an international team-mate of Chris Brunt and Gareth McAuley, joined Reading before finishing the season on a high with Premier League-bound Burnley.