SUNDERLAND stopper Keiren Westwood has proved he can fill Shay Given’s shoes as the Republic of Ireland’s number one, according to boss Giovanni Trapattoni.
But while Westwood’s international future is on the rise, Sunderland goalkeeping rival Simon Mignolet faces a battle to be first-choice for club and country after being left on the bench for Belgium’s win over Holland last night.
Westwood kept a clean sheet on his 11th cap for Ireland, just two days after former Newcastle stopper Given announced his international retirement.
The 27-year-old made two fine saves in Ireland’s 0-0 draw in Serbia, notably denying Zdravko Kuzmanovic from a 20-yard free-kick, and boss Trapattoni was encouraged by the display from the ex-Coventry man, who is in contention to start Sunderland’s Premier League opener at Arsenal this weekend.
Trapattoni said: “We know now that we can trust Westwood.
“It was a big moment for him after the news about Shay Given.
“I was sure he could be a good substitute for Shay and he showed us that when he made the saves.”
Fellow Sunderland keeper Mignolet was forced to play second-fiddle to Chelsea stopper Thibault Courtois – on loan at Athletico Madrid – although the 24-year-old is more concerned about who starts Belgium’s opening World Cup qualifier against Wales next month.
Mignolet said: “The manager has promised that in the coming weeks he will send scouts to Sunderland and that he has not yet chosen his first-choice goalkeeper.
“We have three good goalies, but I have confidence in my ability. But of course I want to play in Wales, which is a very important match.”
Westwood was one of three Sunderland players in the Ireland line-up, with John O’Shea skippering the side and James McClean used in an unorthodox central midfield role.
Trapattoni admits McClean found the going tough in the middle and eventually reverted the 23-year-old to a more familiar left wing role.
“I thought before we could play with (Aiden) McGeady wide and McClean in midfield but it was clear that it was a little too difficult for him,” said Trapattoni.
“After a while, he went on the left but it was important to try it.”