herald

Monday 11 December 2017

'Ireland recall is the aim'

Westwood eyes an international return

KEIREN WESTWOOD hopes that a move away from Sunderland can reignite his international career and get him back into the Irish shirt.

Installed as Ireland's No. 1 in 2012 following the retirement of Shay Given, Westwood suffered badly in the aftermath of that 6-1 hammering at home to Germany and was dropped in favour of David Forde, who took over as first-choice keeper.

The 29-year-old was then sidelined by a shoulder injury which forced him to miss most of last season and Sunderland called time on his Black Cats career by releasing Westwood at the end of the campaign.

Despite being linked with a move to Manchester City, former Coventry man Westwood has opted for a move to the Championship, signing for Sheffield Wednesday on a two-year deal.

And now, catching the eye of Martin O'Neill is one of his aims.

"It's a big personal ambition of mine to get back into the Irish set up. That was in my thought process before I decided to came here. I need to get back to playing regular football. If I can play 40 to 50 games in a season, hopefully an international call-up will follow on from that," says Westwood, who has played in just one of the last 11 internationals, at home to Latvia last year.

Linked with a number of Championship clubs once Sunderland confirmed that he was on a free transfer, Westwood says there was an option of moving to Manchester City as back-up to Joe Hart but was not keen on playing second fiddle

"I had a few options," he says. "It's okay being linked to City and going there and being second or maybe third choice. But your career is soon over. I sat on the bench the year before at Sunderland and I wanted to play some games.

"I started the season as number one at Sunderland. That was fantastic for myself. I played a few games and got injured. I'm 29 and I want to be playing games. I can't be sitting on the bench."

"I spoke to the manager here [Stuart Gray]. He told me his plans. This is a big club and the chance to play first-team football was an option I couldn't turn down."

Meanwhile, Irish keeper Stephen Henderson says he has big ambitions for his new career as Charlton keeper, following his move from West Ham.

The 26-year-old has ended a frustrating two-year spell with the Hammers by cancelling his contract there, despite having a year remaining on a lucrative deal, and moving to Championship side Charlton on a three-year contract.

"I'm very excited and can't wait to get started," said the Dubliner after he hooked up with the Addicks.

"I'm delighted to get it done. It was a pretty sharp move and I'm very happy to be here.

"It is going to be difficult but we have made eight signings now and I expect us to be up there. I am quite ambitious and I'll do everything I can to try and get the team as high up the league as we can."

Henderson is also keen to get his international career moving. He has been in the senior squad on a number of occasions but he remains uncapped.

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