Westwood: Hard work starts now

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood is in no mood to pat himself on the back after sealing his return to the Premier League.

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood is in no mood to pat himself on the back after sealing his return to the Premier League.

The 26-year-old completed his journey from the top flight to the Conference and back again when he signed for Sunderland on a Bosman free transfer from Coventry earlier this month.

But a man who suffered the heartache of rejection by Manchester City as a 19-year-old will not congratulate himself on his return to the big time as he attempts to claim the number one spot for both the Black Cats and the Republic of Ireland.

Westwood said: "I have gone from the Conference and I have worked my way up, so I think I'll have a go at it and see what the craic is.

"It's a natural progression. Everyone wants to test themselves at the highest level and I'm no different.

"I have worked my way through the leagues to get where I am now and I am not going to stop now.

"The hard work is probably going to get harder, so I have got to get my head down."

Westwood's initial task will be to persuade manager Steve Bruce that he should get the nod ahead of Belgium international Simon Mignolet with Craig Gordon, who is currently working his way back from knee surgery.

He may have a head-start with Bruce having revealed that his interest in the former Coventry man is long-standing, although Westwood knows it will count for little if he does not perform to his best.

Westwood said: "When I met with the Gaffer, he said he had tried to sign me three times, so it's always nice to feel wanted.

"This is the place for me. But he doesn't promise anyone anything. You have got to go out and earn your place and then perform well to stay in the team."

The challenge is perhaps even bigger at international level with the fit-again Shay Given having returned from injury after Westwood made his first competitive start against Macedonia in March in his absence.

Regular Premier League football will do the younger man's cause little harm, and having sampled life on the big stage, he is desperate for more.

Westwood said: "I was very proud. The whole thing - the win, the game, the atmosphere in the ground and between the lads, everything - was just amazing.

"It was just great to be involved in that.

"But I have got to try to get into the team first. That's my first and foremost aim, to make the team here and to do well for Sunderland, and if I am doing well for Sunderland, that should take care of itself."

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