KEIREN Westwood has the goalkeeping gloves at Sunderland for the forseeable future, admits Steve Bruce.
And the manager hinted that even the returns of Craig Gordon and Simon Mignolet in the months ahead might not be enough to immediately dislodge the Republic of Ireland international.
Westwood has been a revelation since coming on for the injured Mignolet in the second-half of the game against Aston Villa.
He has starred in the three games he has played so far, grabbing the headlines for vital saves and Bruce agreed: “He’s taken his opportunity very, very well.”
The performances are all the more encouraging considering that the former Coventry City goalkeeper arrived at the Stadium of Light on a Bosman free transfer in the summer.
Bruce said: “Like with Seb Larsson, we’ve done our homework and getting a free transfer like him is very good.
“It’s his chance now, if he keeps performing like he is. It’s quite straightforward.
“By the looks of him he’s going to take some shifting because he’s looking very capable.
“We’ve got two badly injured keepers and there’s no sign of Craig Gordon coming back in, even if Simon’s back in the building at least.”
Sunderland pondered a move for Westwood for a long time and finally took the plunge when the 27-year-old became available for nothing in the summer.
Westwood was rated as arguably the best keeper plying his trade outside of the Premier League but he had to wait for his opportunity with Bruce showing faith in Mignolet and only injury to the Belgian has offered the Irishman a way into the first-team starting line-up.
Bruce acknowledged: “Fair play to him, there have been times when he probably thought he deserved his chance but he stuck at it, kept training and worked hard at it.
“That’s his second full Premier League game and we can only be delighted.
“He looked very assured and produced another great performance.”
The manager was also pleased with the display of Michael Turner in front of Westwood, with the centre-half seeming to improve with every game back from his long-term cruciate ligament injury.
“We’re starting to see Michael again, the real Michael Turner, because he’s had a horrible knee injury and for me he’s just starting.
“He took a knock to his nose in the game against Fulham but he’ll play against Wigan this weekend, no question about that.”
Youngster Ryan Noble (pictured, left) got on at the end of the game at the weekend and Bruce plans to see whether the homegrown striker can push for more first-team involvement in the weeks ahead. The Millfield-born frontman has impressed in the Reserves as he looks to overcome a long-standing spinal problem.
Bruce said: “He had scored 40-odd goals in the youth team when I first arrived but he picked up a horrible back injury and has only recently played his first 90 minutes in a year or so.
“We have an outstanding young player. One to watch, but we hope he can stay injury-free.”