Sheffield Wednesday v Swansea City: Keiren Westwood can issue timely reminder to the Republic of Ireland

“I have always been a believer that international football retires you. You don’t retire from international football.”
Owls goalkeeper Keiren Westwood: Still going strong.Owls goalkeeper Keiren Westwood: Still going strong.
Owls goalkeeper Keiren Westwood: Still going strong.

That is the view of Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, who has missed out on selection for his country’s crunch Euro 2020 qualifier with Denmark next week.

So, instead of jetting off after today’s Championship game against Swansea City, the Sheffield Wednesday No 1 will be back at the club’s Middlewood Road training ground next week.

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Westwood will still be cheering on the Irish – “I will be wearing my green jersey and singing down the pub maybe” – as Mick McCarthy keeps faith with Middlesbrough’s Darren Randolph, plus rookies Mark Travers and Kieran O’Hara for the Dublin game.

“The gaffer has called on Darren, O’Hara and Travers,” said Westwood.

“I am a realist. I haven’t got the wool over my eyes. Maybe now international football is retiring me as we have got a lot of young lads coming through in the Irish team.

“It might be time now.

“I will always be there. I am a big believer that I don’t think players should ever retire from international football. It is your country that retires you.”

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Not that the 35-year-old has any plans to hang up his goalkeeping gloves at Hillsborough just yet.

Widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship over the last five seasons, Westwood says he is in peak condition.

“I am feeling really good,” he said. “I would like a few more years. I have been going since I was 17 so it is a good few pre-seasons I have gone through. I would like a few more.”

Former Manchester City youngster Westwood is contracted until the end of next season – with an option for a further 12 months – and is settled in Sheffield, five years after moving from Sunderland.

Will he finish his career at S6?

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“That is not up to me,” he replied. “I love it here whether that is in the capacity of being the kit man, being on the radio or playing every week.

“Whatever it is, I would like to stay but that is not in my hands. It will be up to the powers that be.”

Now into his sixth season at Hillsborough – he was sent off on the opening day at Reading – Westwood is firmly back as the Owls No 1 after fending off competition from Academy products Cameron Dawson and Joe Wildsmith.

But the Manchester-born stopper believes he has benefited from the competition.

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“I came here six years ago and they were in and around the first-team when they were 18, 19 so they have grown up with me,” he said.

“I would like to think I have helped them along the way. I think that is my role.

“I am always trying to help people or give them advice.

“I was talking to Cammy about a few things this morning, which I will always do and they know. They know what I think of them. I think they are both great.

“It is great for me as they are getting older and progressing – and they have both progressed really well in the last six years – as it pushes me on again. I am getting fitter and stronger and I am feeling the benefits of them. We all get on great. We were all flying around in training this week and it is great. We have all been together so long.

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“The goalkeepers’ union is very different to outfield players. For me, there is not much bitterness between goalkeepers because we all know only one can play. We all know that if you are not No 1 then you are No 2 and you have a job to do.

“I have done that with Darren Randolph and Shay Given at Ireland. You have a certain role and duty to the person that is playing and also as the senior goalkeeper you have the duty to the younger lads to help them.

“It is not so much like maybe a striker coming on and scoring the winner and taking your place and then the other striker might be unhappy. Goalkeepers aren’t really like that. They are like ‘what a great save the other night’.”

The Owls face Swansea City today, looking to climb back into the top six of the Championship – after last weekend’s last-gasp defeat at Blackburn Rovers – and build on the division’s best home record.

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They have conceded just three goals in seven league games at Hillsborough – only Leeds United can match that miserly defence.

“We know we are a good side,” said Westwood. “Of course, you need a bit of luck but with the quality we have in our team we have got to be looking at the top six and I think everyone in the dressing room would say exactly the same thing.

“The confidence is still there. We don’t get very low after a defeat. We don’t rip each other’s heads off and say ‘you did this.’ Listen, people make mistakes over the course of the season and that is going to happen. It is just how you bounce back that counts and that’s what we will be looking to do this weekend.”

Westwood can easily reel off the number of clean sheets he has kept this season – four – plus the amount of Owls appearances he has chalked up (176).

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But he continued: “The only stat that really matters is the win whether that is 4-3, 1-0, 2-1 or whatever.

“That is the only stat that really matters to me come six o’clock on a Saturday night.

“I would maybe look at stats during the week but not to the point when it would grate on me.

“As long as we win on a match-day, that’s all that matters because come the end of the season no-one really cares.”