KEIREN WESTWOOD has joined Phil Bardsley in leaving Sunderland, with only Jack Colback and Seb Larsson still in contract talks over remaining at the club.
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Westwood was not expected to stay at Sunderland beyond the end of his contract this summer after spending the last six months on the treatment table with a shoulder injury.
But the 29-year-old’s departure can now be confirmed, with Sunderland opting against offering the former Coventry City stopper a chance to continue his career at the Stadium of Light.
Blackburn Rovers are among several Championship clubs looking to land Westwood on a Bosman deal after 24 appearances during his three-year spell on Wearside.
Westwood has been followed out of the exit door by Bardsley, who was last night unveiled by Stoke City after the full-back penned a three-year deal with the Potters.
Sunderland held a fresh round of discussions over keeping out-of-contract Bardsley at the Stadium of Light last week after earlier talks about a new deal had collapsed.
But Bardsley, who was wanted by several clubs including West Ham, has decided on a fresh start in the Potteries, with the full-back officially joining Mark Hughes’s men on July 1 after his Sunderland contract expires.
Gus Poyet is understood to have been relaxed over whether Bardsley stayed or departed, and will now look for a new right-back this summer.
Liverpool defender Martin Kelly is one player who has been on Sunderland’s radar, although it is thought that the Merseysiders are looking to sell the England international, whereas the Black Cats would prefer a loan.
Bardsley, who enjoyed a remarkable transformation of his fortunes after being frozen out under Paolo Di Canio last summer, leaves Sunderland having become the club’s record appearance maker in the Premier League.
After arriving from Manchester United in January 2008 in a £2million deal, the 28-year-old played 200 games in all competitions for the Black Cats.
“It was tough to leave Sunderland, I had a wonderful six-and-a-half years there,” said Bardsley.
“I feel the time has come for me to take on a fresh challenge in my career and the opportunity to come to Stoke is brilliant for me and, as soon as I heard of their interest, it was the only place I wanted to come.
“It’s brilliant for me to come and work for such a top manager like Mark Hughes. Obviously, I’ve played against Stoke on a number of occasions in my career and I’ve been very impressed with their style in the last 12 months.
“That’s great credit to the manager. He’s changed the style of play here, Stoke are still a tough side to beat, but they’re an attractive side who want to play the right way and that appealed to me.”
Stoke boss Hughes said: “Phil was genuinely excited to join and I’m delighted to bring him in as his personality and desire will shine in the dressing room.
“He’s a player of great Premier League experience who I think will bring added quality to the squad.”
With Bardsley and Westwood following Carlos Cuellar, Andrea Dossena and Craig Gardner out of the exit door, Larsson and Colback are the two outstanding matters of business, albeit Poyet could yet look to keep goalkeeper Oscar Ustari.
Larsson and Colback are still considering Sunderland’s contract offers, with both in serious demands from a host of other clubs.