KEIREN Westwood will watch transfer developments at Sunderland closely this summer after admitting failing to feature in the Premier League last season was ‘a disaster’ for him.
The Sunderland number two keeper is more than aware that first-choice Simon Mignolet is the subject of transfer speculation.
And for that reason, Westwood has not sought to call time on his Black Cats career – if Mignolet is sold, the Republic of Ireland international would love the chance to establish himself as number one at the Stadium of Light next season.
But the 28-year-old wants to avoid another lost season and is determined to be playing regularly in the campaign which lies ahead.
“It was not a great season for myself,” said the stopper, who played only three Sunderland games – Capital One Cup matches against Morecambe, MK Dons and Middlesbrough.
“It was not a great season for myself – not from a playing point of view, because I haven’t had a chance to play, in order to say, ‘ah, it’s not been great, I’ve played poorly’ or what not. I just haven’t had the chance to play.
“And on that front it has been desperately disappointing, to be honest.
“So I’m looking to next season now, to get a few games under my belt.”
Westwood was not asked to play in Sunderland’s first team after October and was convinced, and hopeful, of going out on loan in January, only for then manager Martin O’Neill to put a stop to a proposed move.
“He kept me around and I can understand why he did because to have two goalkeepers of good quality so to speak is a must for a Premier League squad,” reflected Westwood.
“I think, he was more nervous in case anything happened to Simon.
“He couldn’t really let me go, which was a disaster, really, because it has not gone well for me since – I haven’t played any games and I lost my place with Ireland as well.”
It must have been galling for Westwood to see Millwall’s David Forde steal a march on him with Ireland, purely because the Championship goalkeeper was getting regular first-team football.
Westwood was regarded as Shay Given’s natural successor once the Irish legend hung up his gloves for good.
But Republic boss Giovanni Trapattoni made it clear that he would only play a keeper who was featuring regularly for his club – a decision which saw Westwood shunted to the sidelines for both club and country.
It meant a season of soul-searching, but after keeping a clean sheet in the Republic’s 4-0 win over Georgia, Westwood feels that his career is now set to go in the right direction again.
“You have to stay mentally strong,” he said. “It’s tough though and at times you’re in a dark place and you’re on your own.
“Obviously as a footballer you want to play football and if you don’t play, it’s mentally challenging.
“But we’ll see how we go now - a lot of stuff can happen over the off-season.
“Basically, I just want to play football and I’m looking forward to the future, if I’m honest.
“It’ has been a frustrating 12 months or so, so I’m looking to come out of the dark times and into some good ones.”
If Sunderland do hold on to Mignolet, then Westwood is likely to be on his way but the former Carlisle United and Coventry City keeper insists he has enjoyed being part of SAFC.
“I love it at Sunderland,” he said. “But if I’m not going to play...well, it’s a tough decision.
“I need to play football and I think that’s evident in itself.
“I’ve sort of taken a ... I won’t say backward step .... because Sunderland is a fantastic club and I think I’ve improved since I’ve been there.
“But not playing is a right disaster for me, I’m not going to lie.”