Sport Soccer

Friday 23 February 2018

Westwood boost as Reds sign Mignolet

Nigel Whittaker

KEIREN WESTWOOD will begin pre-season training determined to re-establish himself as number one for both Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland.

The 28-year-old goalkeeper endured a miserable 2012-13 campaign as his lack of club action – he made just three appearances for the Black Cats, all of them in the League Cup – cost him his place in Giovanni Trapattoni's starting XI.

Westwood admitted earlier this month that he might have to leave the Stadium of Light to play regular football, but with Simon Mignolet's move to Liverpool confirmed, it looks to have opened the Sunderland door once again.

Mignolet has penned a "long-term" contract at Anfield after passing medical. The deal could eventually be worth more than £11m to Sunderland.

The 25-year-old has impressed in the north east since arriving from Sint-Truiden in 2010, establishing himself as one of the most promising keepers in Europe.

"I'm very pleased to be here and I'm looking forward to getting started," said the Belgium international.

"I think it will be very special the first moment I step onto the pitch."

Mignolet becomes Liverpool's fourth signing of the summer following Manchester City's Kolo Toure, Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas and Sevilla's Luis Alberto.

Sunderland have been linked with a move for PSV Eindhoven's Holland U-21 international Jeroen Zoet, but Westwood's experience has put him back at the head of the queue as new manager Paolo Di Canio overhauls his squad.

The former Coventry goalkeeper will begin pre-season training with lots to prove and everything to gain after spending every second of the Italian's eight games to date on the bench.

However, goalkeeping coach Domenico Doardo has had a chance to see what he can do in training, and the club's fans are well aware of his ability after seeing him put together a run of eight successive starts the season before last, with that run only ending because of a bout of illness.

Westwood's misfortune on Wearside did not initially affect him at international level, where he was chosen as the natural successor to Shay Given when the Donegal man announced his retirement from Ireland duty after Euro 2012.

Westwood started the August friendly in Serbia and the World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan, Germany and the Faroe Islands before Trapattoni decided he needed his first-choice goalkeeper to be playing regular football.

As a result, Millwall's David Forde got the nod for November's friendly against Greece and has started six of the seven games since, with Westwood earning a rare opportunity in the 4-0 friendly victory over Georgia on June 2.

Following that appearance, he admitted he may have to look for another club after seeing his hopes of a loan move in January come to nothing.

"I love it at Sunderland, but if I'm not going to play... It's a tough decision, but I need to play football – I think that's evident in itself," said Westwood.

However, he is in no rush to leave the Stadium of Light. "A lot of stuff can happen over the off-season but basically, I just want to play football.

"I'm looking forward to the future. It's been a frustrating 12 months or so, so I'm looking to come out of the dark times and into some good ones."

Irish Independent

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