Friday 21 October 2016

'We were wrecked in 2012'

Westwood pleased to have secured late place in O'Neill's 23-man Euros squad but feels sympathy for unlucky Forde

Keiren Westwood and Darren Randolph arrive at squad training at the Fota Island Resort, Cork yesterday. Pic: Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile
Keiren Westwood and Darren Randolph arrive at squad training at the Fota Island Resort, Cork yesterday. Pic: Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile

Officially, Keiren Westwood is Ireland''s Number One.

For what it's worth, that's his squad number for the 23-man panel which will travel to France for Euro 2016 next week.

The Sheffield Wednesday man is taken aback at being informed of that, but he's also been around the block long enough to know that having a No 1 shirt may not mean a lot.

"I wouldn't read anything into that, Jesus, I could be number 99," he jokes.


But for Westwood, the fact that he's in the squad (unlike David Forde) and in with a chance of playing in France (unlike four years ago in Poland) are important factors.

In 2012, he travelled to Poland for the Euro finals, aware that Giovanni Trapattoni had picked his team before the squad even left Ireland, and that Shay Given was guaranteed to start.

Things are a little looser for France 2016, where the likelihood is that Darren Randolph will start but Westwood's form at club level has put him in the frame at least, unlike 2012.

"I think that's everybody's aim, is it not?" he says when asked if he's aiming to start against Sweden.

"I would say everyone in the 23 wants to be in the 11, not just me or the keepers or the two right backs or the centre-mids or the strikers or the centre-halves.

"Everyone is going to be in the same boat, not just me. But that adds really good competition to the squad. There's a bit of, not needle, but everyone is pushing each other on. If Darren (Randolph) makes a save, I'll say, 'Great save Daz'."

He says only Martin O'Neill knows who will start but at least in 2016, the squad already feels a freshness which was not there four years ago.

"We started real early before the (Croatia) game," Westwood says. "We were training for a good four weeks before the actual tournament and by the time it came around we were f******g wrecked because it was a long season and we were up in Montecatini, we were in Dublin . . . we were wrecked, that's the truth.

"It was real tough. We would train every day non-stop and it would be the same. Don't get me wrong, I felt really fit but mentally, you need a bit of time off.

"I know it's probably easy to say 'oh footballers, they only train from 10 o'clock to midday and it's only two hours' but it's a bit longer than that.

"It's mentally draining and you're away, you can't go and see anyone. If you're in Dublin you can see a bit of family or some friends, or you can fly back across to the UK or wherever and see people."

Players have been given more time off on this trip and Westwood was one of the last to hook up, having played for his club last weekend.

Defeat to David Meyler's Hull City in the promotion play-off last week was a bitter pill to swallow, but Westwood also feels sympathy for the man he effectively replaced, fellow keeper Forde, Westwood admitting that the scene in the dressing room in Cork on Tuesday night when O'Neill broke the news was not pleasant.


"Everyone was real . . . I don't know about nervous but everyone was just apprehensive to see what happened. I sort of kept my head down," he says. "Obviously I'm immensely disappointed for Fordey because he's a good friend. It's a real shame, somebody had to go and it's a shame it's Fordey.

"There was none of that (celebrating). There was no congratulations to anybody, it was more shaking hands. Darron (Gibson) and Eunan (O'Kane) were sat next to me. It wasn't great, I just gave them a hug and a handshake, Fordey as well. There was no high-fiving, no nothing, everybody just got on the bus. It was a bit eerie."

Westwood's international career has always had a shadow hovering above. His arrival on the scene, where he seemed to joke about his Irish qualification coming from the fact that he was "a Catholic boy".

His attendance record has been questioned and it was seen as a bad omen for Westwood when he didn't make the squad for the March friendly games but he insists that it's his injury record, and not a lack of commitment, which kept him off the scene.

"It's easy to throw that at me, I suppose, but I don't see where that has any reason," he insists. "The only reason I wouldn't be in the squad is because I was injured. That's frustrating to read, I'm not going to lie to you you because there's no real substance to it, apart from I'm injured. It's not like I'm fully fit and I've gone 'nah, that's not for me'. I haven't done that so it is a bit frustrating."

"If you are injured you can't really do too much, you're getting injections in your ankle and stuff, there's not much you can do about it.

"I would come in and people would see what kind of state I was in, maybe not be able to train for three or four days and the match was in three/four days, if you can't train you can't really be involved.

It's difficult to accept, (the 'reliability' charge) but if you are injured, you're injured," he added, keen to make up for lost time and missed chances.

"There's no regrets from me, no crying over spilt milk. Things could have gone different but I don't really look too far back."

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