KEIREN Westwood believes Sunderland are ready for lift-off and is thrilled to have joined the club at such an exciting time.
The former Carlisle and Coventry goalkeeper is one of nine new arrivals at the Stadium of Light this summer and reckons that the new faces – which includes two Champions League veterans in the shape of Wes Brown and John O’Shea – can take the club to new heights.
“I think this is a good time to be a Sunderland fan and a good time to be a Sunderland player,” he said.
“The people coming through the door are established players with a lot of medals in their cabinets, and long may that continue.
“You don’t need to sell a club of this size, 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.”
Bosman signing Westwood had offers from a host of clubs after reaching the end of his contract but spoke to only Manchester City and Leicester along with Sunderland.
“I didn’t want to lead clubs up the garden path,” he explained. “So I spoke only to those I seriously considered joining.
“But I met the manager at Sunderland, 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.”
Westwood knows he will face a battle for the first team jersey, with Simon Mignolet having been so impressive in his first season on Wearside and Craig Gordon sure to provide massive competition once he is fit again.
But the livewire 26-year-old is relaxed about the challenge ahead.
“I don’t think anyone gets any assurances you’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,” he shrugged.
“It gets even harder for me now and I said that on the day I signed.
“I have worked hard to get here, but to perform at the next level you have to perform even harder and I am under no illusions it is going to be easy.
“I have to play well and earn my place in the team.
“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, who is there to sit on the bench and 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 Premier League squad they have three keepers – and they are all good.”
For the moment, Westwood is simply relishing the fact that he has finally become a Premier League goalkeeper after being released by Manchester City in his junior days and failing to impress on trials at Bradford City and Accrington Stanley before being picked up by Carlisle.
“I had the summer from hell after being passed over by Man City and had got to the stage where I was filling out forms to join the police because I knew I needed to find myself a job.
“But then came the opportunity at Carlisle and I never really looked back.”
“Joining Sunderland has been brilliant.
“I know how precious it all is, having obviously come very close to not being in football.
“So I know I have got to have that hunger and desire to work as hard as I can to make something of myself.”