GUS POYET has challenged Keiren Westwood to regain his starting spot after admitting that leaving out the keeper has been one of the hardest decisions of his Sunderland tenure so far.
Westwood is expected to remain on the bench for tomorrow’s crunch clash at fellow strugglers Stoke City, with £2million summer signing Vito Mannone continuing in Sunderland’s goal at the Britannia Stadium.
The Republic of Ireland stopper, who spent last season playing second fiddle to Simon Mignolet, suffered a nasty collision with ex-Sunderland defender Paul McShane at Hull earlier this month and was ruled out of the Capital One Cup clash with Southampton four days later.
But head coach Poyet then opted to keep faith with Mannone for Sunderland’s last outing against Manchester City, and the Italian responded with the Black Cats’ first Premier League clean sheet of the campaign.
Mannone is yet to concede in a game-and-a-half of Premier League football for Sunderland and Poyet says Westwood has a fight on his hands to oust the former Arsenal stopper.
“It’s been one of the toughest decisions I’ve made here to change the goalkeeper,” said Poyet.
“It’s difficult to explain how unfair it was on Westy, but that’s my job.
“Everything went alright, so credit to Vito and now Westy needs to fight for his place.
“He will have an opportunity eventually, but it’s up to him now to get his place back.”
Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena will serve the final game of their three-match bans tomorrow, but, apart from the suspended pair, Poyet has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Back-up centre-halves Valentin Roberge and Carlos Cuellar are both fit after missing the victory over Manchester City through injury, while fellow defender Wes Brown – man of the match last time out – has come through training unscathed this week.
But Poyet, who is likely to name an unchanged side against the fourth-bottom Potters, insists he relishes any selection dilemmas.
“The selection is always difficult for a manager,” added the former Brighton boss.
“When you’ve got everyone fit, you have plenty of options and you’ve got to select the players based on what you see every day and in games.
“The easy decision is to play someone like Ronaldo. If you’ve got Ronaldo, you play him.
“But there’s difficult decisions too that are not clear sometimes.
“That’s what I like the most (about the job) to be able to be responsible when making decisions.”