SUNDERLAND will open talks with Coventry City goalkeeper Keiren Westwood over the next few days and hope to make him one of three free transfers coming into the club this summer.
The Echo revealed last week that the Black Cats had identified three Bosman signings – two domestic, one from Europe – that they were hoping to bring in as a matter of priority.
Birmingham City’s Seb Larsson we confirmed was one of the domestic targets and, despite speculation on other players over the weekend, it was Westwood who was the other.
Sunderland had hoped they might find their way unopposed when it came to negotiations and wanted to keep their interest quite as a result.
But with Everton, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Leicester all rumoured to have made inquiries about the 26-year-old Republic of Ireland international they are likely to find themselves facing competition for the Championship stopper.
Interest from other clubs might make sealing the deal a little trickier, but with Sunderland having made the former Manchester City and Carlisle one of their major early targets, the Black Cats will take some beating in the race to sign one of the most highly-rated keepers outside the top flight.
Sunderland have long tracked the career of the confident 6ft 2in keeper without making a firm bid for his services.
But with first-choice Craig Gordon sidelined for the first few months of next season at least, Sunderland have decided the time is right to step up their interest.
Should the Blues man sign, Bruce will feel confident that with Gordon, Westwood, Simon Mignolet and Trevor Carson at the club, he has a quartet of keepers he can feel confident with going into the 2011//12 season.
Just as importantly though, the manager will feel that if he can bring in the trio of Bosman signings he is chasing, he will have protected a significant transfer kitty which can be used to secure the big name players like Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia for example, that he hopes to bring to the club.
Bruce has spoken about bringing in: “up to eight or nine signings,” this summer.
If three of them can be brought in with no fee involved, then his hand will be strengthened when it comes to competing for other targets who will not come cheaply.