Despite a relatively poor season in terms of points gained (47, safe by just 8 points), Sunderland still managed a top half finish, and will be looking to spend the money gained from the sale of Darren Bent to Aston Villa in January and Jordan Henderson in Liverpool.
But the addition of Keiren Westwood from Coventry City could prove to be a brilliant piece of business for Steve Bruce, and for no fee at all. The Republic of Ireland international has been one of the lone bright spots for the Sky Blues in recent years, earning a spot in the 2008/09 Championship team of the year, as well as winning Coventry’s player of the season award in the following season. Despite a lack of quality in front of him, Westwood still managed to keep 11 clean sheets even with a shaky back four. In the past 2 seasons, he has also established himself as the clear understudy to Shay Given at national level, winning 7 caps in goal, including a brave display in his competitive debut against Macedonia in March, a vital 2-1 win for the Irish.
Sunderland have had problems with goalkeeper consistency in recent years. Craig Gordon, who joined for a British record from Hearts in 2007, started brightly but has struggled with injuries recently, limiting his availability and effectiveness for the Wearside outfit. Simon Mignolet deputized, and the young Belgian showed signs of having a future in the divison with some encouraging displays. However, Westwood represents a clear improvement on both, and the praise he has earned from both Giovanni Trapattoni and Shay Given predict a bright future is in store for the shot-stopper. Westwood will have to fight off competition from both Gordon and Mignolet, but he should be the bookie’s favorite to claim the number one spot for the season opener, or at least the majority of the campaign.
The addition of Westwood might well provide the solid base which Sunderland can build on to improve, and potentially reach a European spot, which seemed quite possible in the first half of least season.