Spotlight: Keiren Westwood
With the international break well upon us, and just two days to go until Ireland play Russia in their next UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifier, it’s a great time to have do a profile on one of the many in-form players in Ireland’s squad: Coventry goalkeeper Keiren Westwood.
Currently sitting second in the Trapattoni Index for goalkeepers, Kieren Westwood is having a tremendous year at Coventry City. He’s played eight league games in the nPower Football League Championship so far this season, and has only conceded eight goals along the way. His best games so far have come against Hull and Portsmouth, where he kept a clean sheet in each game.
Manchester-born Westwood began his footballing career as an academy scholar with local side Manchester City, but never featured for the first team in his only senior year at the club: 2003-04. During that time he went on a loan move to Oldham Athletic, but was only a backup and never played for the Latics. Next, he moved down divisions to play for then Conference side Carlisle United in 2004.
His career at Carlisle did not start too brightly either, and Westwood had to wait his chance for first team action. He battled Matt Glennon for the number one jersey, and got his chance in Cup games as well as when Glennon was injured. At the end of the season, Glennon was sold to Scottish club Falkirk, and even though Carlisle signed Grimsby’s Anthony Williams as a replacement, Westwood won the #1 jersery and was the starting goalkeeper for the season. Westwood’s stellar performances in goal helped the side to promotion for the second successive season, as Carlisle won the League Two title.
2007-08 proved to be an even better season for Westwood, as he really emerged as an excellent young goalkeeper. Rather than battling for relegation as many might have expected, Carlisle United performed admirably and ended up in fourth position in League One. They lost in the playoffs, but had Westwood to thank for their wonderful league position. He was named in the League One PFA Team of the Year, and won the club’s Player of the Year Award.
Having played 131 league games and 22 cup games for Carlisle in four seasons, Westwood was snapped up by Coventry City for £500,000, and immediately became the side’s first choice goalkeeper. He had a splendid debut season for the Sky Blues, and once again was the division’s best goalkeeper, being chosen in the 2008-09 Championship PFA Team of the Year. Similarly, he also won his new club’s Player of the Year in his first season there.
Westwood’s impressive form has continued since, and last season he won every club award possible for Coventry City: Player of the Year 2009-10, Player’s Player of the Year 2009-10, and Supporters’ Player of the Year 2009-10. This kind of consistency attracted the attention of Celtic during the summer, after the Glasgow side sold Artur Boruc to Fiorentina. However, Sky Blues boss Adrian Boothroyd thought too much of Westwood to let him go anywhere.
“They made an offer about three weeks ago and Keiren knows all about it,” said Boothroyd. “It’s £3.50 and a bag of haggis, which is nowhere near enough for a player of that quality. I don’t want to lose someone who I think is the best goalkeeper in the division, someone I want to do is build a team around him. Negotiations (regarding a new contract) are ongoing, as they always are, it’s a pain in the neck but that’s how it is I’m afraid when other people are involved.”
“The offer is not really worth talking about because it’s derisory and derogatory. So for now Keiren is very much our player. I want him here, Ray Ranson [club chairman] wants him here and I imagine every single Coventry fan, player and member of staff wants him here. This is the place for him to further his career.”
In May 2008, Westwood joined up with the Irish national football team to participate in a summer training camp in Portugal. Although born in England, Westwood qualified to play in the green jersey through his Irish grandmother. He was still at Carlisle at the time, and had hoped his career would progress both clubwise and on the national stage. “Playing for the Republic is something I’d definitely consider,” Westwood said at the time. “I’m not Irish as such, but I’m a Catholic boy and it’s in my blood through my dad’s mum. I’m only a League One goalkeeper and it would help my chances by moving up to the Championship.”
Westwood came on as a substitute for Joe Murphy in the training match against local side Lagos, but did not get his first proper taste of action until a year later against Nigeria at Craven Cottage. Westwood came on at half-time for Shay Given, and did well in his first outing, having to make a few saves against the pacy African side, and keeping a clean sheet for his half.
Westwood has since lined up for Ireland against Australia at Thomond Park (coming on in the 68th minute, and seeing a David Carney piledriver go past him), keeping a clean sheet against South Africa at Thomond Park, playing 90 minutes against Paraguay in the RDS, and most recently a clean sheet against Algeria at the RDS in May.
Having just turned 26, and with 5 caps already under his belt, the future looks bright for the probable successor to Shay Given.