Wednesday 20 November 2019

I will consider Sunderland future if I'm not No 1, vows Westwood

KEIREN WESTWOOD has admitted he will have to consider his options if he doesn't start the new Premier League season as Sunderland's No 1, now that he has assumed that mantle for Ireland.

The Manchester native spent the majority of last season as understudy to Simon Mignolet and is determined to unship the Belgian from Martin O'Neill's starting XI.

However, he is aware that it will be difficult and acknowledges that he has a responsibility to be sharp for Irish duty with the World Cup campaign looming.

Shay Given gave Westwood a ringing endorsement after he retired on Monday, but warned his former understudy that regular football is essential.

And the 27-year-old admitted that reality after Wednesday night's scoreless draw in Serbia, where he produced an impressive display.

"Of course I need to play, and if I don't play it's something I will have to assess," he said. "My main aim is to get into Sunderland's team."


Giovanni Trapattoni has also stressed the importance of regular football for the 'keeper.

"Of course, that's a given," Westwood continued. "My aim is to get into Sunderland's team and take it from there."

He returned from his Euros break ahead of schedule with a view to making an impression on O'Neill.

Considering he played no games in Poland, he felt that a long break was unnecessary.

"I went back and had a good pre-season. It's up to the gaffer now. He doesn't name his team until 2.0 before Saturday (away to Arsenal), so I will be waiting until then. Hopefully, I get the nod."

Another element of his weekend will be speaking to Given. Westwood retains huge respect for the Donegal man and feels it is a shame that he has bowed out on a relatively low note.

"Shay is a good friend and a great goalkeeper and it's a shame as I would like to see him play one more game and get the adulation he deserves really," he explained.

"He has done 16 years of hard, hard work and deserves every bit of praise he gets. I haven't spoken to him yet as I wanted to get the game out of the way, but I will speak to him over the weekend.

"Sixteen years is a long, long stretch and he deserves praise for what he has done for Ireland. He is one of my heroes and idols, and I cannot speak any more highly of him."

The bottom line, however, is that opportunity knocks.

"I've been four years in the squad now," he stressed, "and I have been working up until this moment."

Irish Independent

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