SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Keane gives keeper a vote of confidence

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.


Keane gives keeper a vote of confidence

Sunderland boss Roy Keane has given a vote of confidence to Ben Alnwick, as the Sunderland keeper battles to regain his place and fitness.

The 19-year-old has withdrawn from the England Under-21 squad for tonight’s friendly in Holland with a shoulder injury that prevented him from taking a place on the Black Cats’ bench against Southampton at the weekend.

Keane has preferred Darren Ward – who will be on the bench tonight when Wales take on Liechenstein in a friendly in Wrexham – between the sticks for the last six games but still insists there is much to come from the Prudhoe-born stopper.

“Ben needs to recharge his batteries and, in the position we’re in, it’s all-important we call on that bit of experience,” said the Sunderland manager.

“Wardy’s taken his chance, but Ben’s 19 years of age. He will be a top keeper and he’s probably got 20 years ahead of him. We’ve got to remember that.”

There will be a sense of deja-vu for Alnwick because his experiences this season have mirrored what happened last term.

After Kelvin Davis endured a difficult start to his Sunderland career, Alnwick got in ahead of his more experienced colleague, only to be taken out of the firing line by Mick McCarthy after only five games.

But Keane values the fact that Ward has the knowledge of more than 500 league appearances to his name with Mansfield, Notts County, Nottingham Forest and Norwich City.

The Irishman said: “Ben’s benefiting from training alongside Wardy. You need to learn off all the experienced players, especially players who train hard.

“We can talk all we want but when they see players train hard and they’re experienced players it’s a great learning curve for a young keeper.”

Third-choice Sunderland goalkeeper Trevor Carson is expected to play for Northern Ireland Under-21s against Germany tonight.

But Dwight Yorke has withdrawn from Trinidad & Tobago’s friendly in Austria in order to concentrate on club matters.