Keiren Westwood arrived at S6 in July 2014 on a free transfer having been released by Sunderland, penning a two-year deal.
Initially, eyebrows were raised among fans at the addition of Westwood, with the already talented and consistent Chris Kirkland between the sticks. After remarkable and exquisite performances though, Keiren soon became Stuart Gray’s first choice keeper, a fans’ favourite and possibly the first name on the team sheet week in, week out.
In fact, Westwood only missed two league games all season throughout the 2014-15 campaign. This saw Kirkland predominately play only in the FA and League Cup respectively, ultimately seeing him leave the club in the summer of 2015, moving to Championship opposition Preston North End.
I could ramble on all day about Westwood and the remarkable season we had defensively, ultimately leading to a record-equalling 17 clean sheets. He also saved 50% of penalties faced throughout the season.
To conclude this, the Wednesday stopper was deservedly named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year, the first Owl to do so since the 1990/91 season. Furthermore, the Irishman was voted Sheffield Wednesday’s Player of the Year as voted by you, the fans, while capturing my vote also.
The continued appreciation of Westwood began most recently – September 2, 2015 – as the Owls’ number one extended his stay until the summer of 2018. This enlightening news came shortly after the deadline of the mid-year transfer window.
The 30-year-old’s extension to his stay at Hillsborough was arguably better than any deadline day swoop, knowing the consistent and instinctive Westwood is possibly our best player, even with 15 others added to the sizeable squad during the transfer window.
The appreciation of Kieran Westwood broken down:
Links to the Premier League:
The January transfer window 2015 saw speculation that the Republic of Ireland shot-stopper may move to Anfield. After inconsistent performances from Belgian international Simon Mignolet, manager Brendan Rodgers was therefore on the lookout for an experienced goalkeeper to challenge Mignolet for a first team spot. Although nothing came of the links, continued interest from Liverpool and possibly ‘other’ Premier League teams threatened an approach over the forthcoming summer window.
I’m sure Westwood ‘could’ have pushed for a move back to the Premier League. Subsequently this may have seen him demoted to the bench, who knows? However, in regards to this, all Wednesdayites appreciate the dedication and loyalty shown by deciding to extend his stay at S6 instead of opting for a move to a top-flight team. We hope to see Westwood between the sticks at Hillsborough throughout our proposed hard but determined fight to gain promotion.
Belief in the ‘New Era’:
Agreeing a new deal until summer 2018, for me, shows Westwood’s belief and ambition at the prospects of a ‘new era’ under Chansiri and manager Carlos Carvalhal. The offer of a new contract proposed by the club also shows the importance of the keeper to our chairman and manager alike. Our number one goalkeeper is a very valuable asset, adding stability and composure to our defence. I’m sure confidence is significantly improved among central defenders – Lees, Loovens, Sasso and Turner, knowing Westwood is behind them.
With Price and young prospects Wildsmith and Dawson also at the club, the experience of Westwood can only help develop the progression of our third and fourth choice stoppers. Unfortunately, injury has limited the goalkeeper’s playing time this season, but it was good to see him back between the sticks against Fulham.
With his 31st birthday on the horizon, you could say Westwood is in the ‘peak’ of his career for a goalkeeper. His squad number does not just represent a numeric symbol on his jersey, but his value to the team. His goalkeeping attributes are indispensable to the club, Carvalhal, Chansiri and the fans. In my eyes, Westwood IS number one.
I’m sure you would agree, Westwood is the best goalkeeper in the Championship and could certainly challenge many goalkeepers for a first team spot in the division above.
Words cannot express the delight and appreciation amongst the fans at his extended stay. It will only enhance the chances of getting to the desired Premier League much quicker in the near future.
Myself and the fans would like to thank Keiren for believing in our journey to the top. Let’s get the club and Westwood back where they belong…the Premier League.