Black Cats new boy has copped perfect move

13 July 2011 08:40
SUNDERLAND new-boy Keiren Westwood still remembers what it was like to be staring at the football scrapheap seven years ago following Kevin Keegan's decision to release him now he feels he has copped the perfect move.

Sitting at the Academy of Light yesterday, the 26-year-old is intent on proving he has all the attributes to become an established Premier League goalkeeper, suggesting he has greater hunger to succeed having come within a few pages of becoming a police officer.

Westwood, Manchester born though qualifying to play for the Republic of Ireland through his grandmother, was at Manchester City until Keegan shattered his dream in 2004. After a deal with Oldham broke down because he broke his hand, he then had unsuccessful trials at Bradford and Accrington Stanley, despite believing an offer was on the cards.

Approaching his 20th birthday, he thought he had better start to plan for the future and was ready to pursue a career in law enforcement when the then manager at Carlisle United, Paul Simpson, handed him one last chance.

I was passed from pillar to post, I had a trial here and there, promises of contracts which were not going to happen and, in the end, I was going to join the police force, said Westwood.

I was filling out forms for the police at my mum's house when I got the call to go to Carlisle, so it's funny how things turn out. You have to fill out everything like whether you have tattoos. I was just at the bit answering how you would deal with a domestic disturbance, which obviously I know all about [smiling], when the call came. I got up there in the gold Fiat Punto very, very quickly.

Having suffered rejection at City, where he learned his trade behind the likes of Peter Schmeichel and David Seaman, Westwood's confidence had taken a knock. So after his first day's training with the Cumbrians, his gut reaction was to fear the worst.

I trained that day with the lads and I have never trained so badly, he said. In the shooting session, the shots were hitting the net, and then I was diving. I was nearly in tears at the end of the session.

I just sat on the ground, head in hands, saying what a day, what a summer.' Dennis Booth was Paul Simpson's assistant, a brilliant bloke, and he said you all right son' I said I've had a shocker' and he said nah, you were all right.'

I looked up at him and said I was absolutely shocking' and he just started laughing and said forget about it, come tomorrow and play in the game, see how you go, don't beat yourself up'.

The next day, Westwood performed well in a friendly with Barrow, Simpson asked him to sign and over the next four years he helped Carlisle climb from the Conference up to League One.

He moved to Coventry City in 2008, was named in the Championship's team of the year the following year and earned the Sky Blues' player of the year in 2010.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has been monitoring him closely for a while, and Westwood feels that choosing the Stadium of Light over the likes of Celtic, Leicester, Leeds United and a return to City is the ideal step to take.

There were a few clubs in for me but I met the manager and got a great feel for the place when I came up and I felt wanted, said Westwood, who is expected to start the season ahead of Craig Gordon and Simon Mignolet. He (Bruce) said he had tried to sign me a few times beforehand and the general feel for the place was brilliant, so this was the next step for me.

Westwood is unlikely to figure at York City tonight when Craig Gardner could be the only new signing to figure in Sunderland's first friendly of the summer.

He will, though, be involved during the three-game trip to Germany and he thinks his experiences over the years will help to ensure he can be one of Bruce's success stories.

Getting released at 19 by Manchester City was obviously a kick in the teeth but obviously a kick up the backside I needed too, he said. I was walking round City with stars in my eyes with keepers like Peter Schmeichel, Nicky Weaver, Carlo Nash and then David Seaman came the year after. As a City fan I'd got the autographs of those types of players when I was younger.

I don't think I was good enough then, simple as that, and I didn't impose myself as I should have done. I didn't give myself a good chance to earn a contract there.

You still learn from working with keepers like Schmeichel and Seaman every day, just by watching them. Seaman was 40 when he came to City and he was physically still in great condition and a great pro.

Going to the conference as a skinny 19-year-old with Carlisle was a real eye-opener, getting battered from pillar to post. Now I'm here. This is a good time to be a Sunderland fan and a good time to be a Sunderland player, the people coming through the door are established players with a lot of medals in their cabinets and long may that continue.

Source: Northern_Echo