Keiren Westwood ready to fight for Sunderland No 1 spot

13 July 2011 11:08
Keiren Westwood has waited seven long years to reach the Premier League but he knows the hard work starts for him now.

The Republic of Ireland international turned down a return to Manchester City, the club he supported, and who rejected him as a teenager, to join Sunderland on a free transfer from Coventry.

Westwood, who made his first competitive Irish start as Shay Given's stand-in against Macedonia in March, will start the season as Steve Bruce's No 1.

New dawn: Keiren Westwood joined Sunderland on a free transfer

Scotland international Craig Gordon is out for another two months with a knee injury and while young Belgian keeper Simon Mignolet impressed initially as Gordon's understudy in his first campaign in England last season, his inconsistency led Bruce to beat City, Everton, Celtic and Leicester to Westwood's signature.

And the Manchester-born stopper is keen to make up for lost time when the season starts next month.

Westwood, who is in the Sunderland squad travelling to York for their first pre-season friendly on Wednesday night, is clearly thrilled at the prospect of arriving at a club who have already made nine summer signings.

He said: 'I think 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.

Hot property: Westwood was wanted by several clubs

'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.

'He 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.

'You don't need to sell a club of this size, and the manager didn't have to do that with me. You just look round the training ground, the stadium and see the average attendance last season and you know this is a place you want to be.

'I don't think anyone gets any assurances he'll play, you obviously have to play well to get in the team and then play brilliantly to stay in it and deserve your place.

Challenger: Craig Gordon is the regular No 1 at the Stadium of Light

'I don't think there are any bad keepers in the Premier League. In the Championship a club might have a number one and then maybe a young lad who is not really pushing but they are there to sit on the bench. He might get a game if the number one gets injured or they'll usually bring in someone on loan from the Premier League. But in a Prem squad they have three keepers and they are all good.'

Westwood has certainly arrived at a club with supporters who have a tradition of adoring their keepers.

It all dates back to the early 70s and Jim Montgomery.

Monty, arguably still the biggest legend to play for the Wearside club, pulled off the sensational double save which helped lift the 1973 FA Cup, Sunderland's last major trophy success.

The hard work starts now: Westwood (left) has begun training at Sunderland

Since then, the likes of Chris Turner, Tony Norman, Lionel Perez, Thomas Sorensen, Jurgen Macho, Mart Poom, Darren Ward and Gordon have all proved massive hits with the Sunderland faithful. They even liked Given for a short period.

Before appearing at a packed press conference at Sunderland's training ground on Tuesday, with fellow new signings Seb Larsson, Craig Gardner and David Vaughan, Westwood showed he had clearly done his homework.

He even knew that fellow Irishman Given had won one of his few medals at the club more than 15 years ago on loan from Blackburn, and two years before he joined rivals Newcastle.

'The big one is big Jim,' he said. 'And it was some save that wasn't it? 

Legend: Jim Montgomery and the rest of the Sunderland team celebrate their 1973 FA Cup success

'I know the fans here love a goalie so hopefully they can take me under their wing and hopefully I can play well for them.'

Westwood also recalled that he was was on the verge of joining the police force after his rejection from City seven years ago.

In fact he was filling in the application form to join the police when he received a call to join Carlisle United on trial.

Despite, by his own admission, a shocking first training session with the then-Conference side, Westwood was offered a deal by Paul Simpson. And he has not looked back since.

Ireland ambition: Westwood wants to cement his place as Ireland No 1

After two promotions with the Cumbrians, Westwood left for Coventry and after three years in the Midlands, in May he became one of Bruce's first summer signings, joining on a free transfer.

Westwood said: 'I know how precious it is to be in the Premier League because I came very close to not being in football. I know I have got to have that hunger and desire to make something of myself.

'Getting released by City was a kick in the teeth but it was a kick up the backside as well. It made me realise I had to work hard to succeed in the game.

'It gets even harder for me now. I have worked hard to get here but to perform at the next level and I am under no illusions it is going to be easy.

Under no illusions: Westwood has come up through the leagues

'Going to the conference as a skinny 19-year-old was a real eye-opener and getting battered from pillar to post does give you a real desire to make your dreams possible and try achieve something with your career.

'Just having a job was an absolute blessing for me at the time because the summer I had was wretched. I was passed from pillar to post, 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.

'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. If I was a bit quicker and brighter I might have become a policeman.

'At that stage I was just looking for a job, I had bills to play and had to help my mum and dad and family out and not working and having any money is not great.'

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Source: Daily_Mail