Sunderland’s Westwood faces Ireland chance

Keiren Westwood
Keiren Westwood
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SUNDERLAND keeper Keiren Westwood’s hopes of Euro 2012 glory have increased with injury concerns surfacing over established number one Shay Given.

Given has undergone a scan on a knee injury, after hurting it in training on Monday, and is not expected to train now before tomorrow at the very earliest.

And that calls into question the Aston Villa stopper’s chances of playing in the friendly against Bosnia in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

A spokesman for the Football Association of Ireland said: “Shay Given picked up a minor knee injury in training.

“After undergoing a scan, it was concluded that Shay should sit out training for the next two or three days for precautionary measures.”

At this point, Given still has not given up all hope of being between the posts against Bosnia, but the 36-year-old is approaching the age where injuries are more frequent and harder to shake off.

Generally, he has been lucky with injuries apart from a long-standing shoulder injury which at one point looked as though it could be career-threatening.

But he suffered a hamstring strain for Villa this season which kept him out for six weeks before his return in January and the knee injury will be a fresh concern.

Given’s fitness issues could well open the door for Westwood who has been a frustrated deputy both for Sunderland and the Republic this season.

And should the opportunity arrive to stake his claim over the next few weeks, Westwood (pictured) will hope to grab it with both gloves, having had to endure being a number two at club level this season for the first time since he was a trainee with Manchester City.

“It made me stronger mentally as I have never had to deal with not playing before,” said the 27-year-old of his season at Sunderland.

“I’ve kept my head down and worked hard.

“I am up for the fight next season, but I know it will be difficult when only one keeper can play – the manager has to make a difficult decision and I want to make it even harder.”

Westwood was worried that not playing regularly for Sunderland might cost him a place in Euro 2012, but, having made the squad, he now faces the prospect of having a real part to play in the tournament should Given’s injury problems continue.

“The Euros have kept me going,’ he said. “I love playing for Ireland. It means the world to me, and I’m delighted, very proud, to make the squad. I want to go there and keep Shay on his toes and be ready if I get a chance.”

If fit, Given will be the first name on Giovanni Trapattoni’s team-sheet, but, if not, Westwood will get the chance to come in from the cold.

He would hope to be coming into a Republic side featuring Sunderland team-mates John O’Shea and James McClean.

O’Shea will play no part in the Bosnia game as Trapattoni does not want to risk the Black Cats’ defender aggravating a troublesome ankle injury.

The former Manchester United star has not trained fully since joining up with his international team-mates, though the Republic are confident he’ll be fully fit for their tournament getting under way against Croatia in Poznan on June 10.

Meanwhile, Trapattoni has hinted that while McClean is most certainly one for the future, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that he could also be involved.