Goalkeeper Endorses Di Canio Methods - As He Heads For Sunderland Exit

Richard Heathcote

A Sunderland goalkeeper has confirmed that he sees his future away from Wearside, but has nothing but praise for the new management team. Don't worry, it isn't the one you think!

Kieren Westwood looks set for a summer move as frustration grows at his inability to dislodge Simon Mignolet from the Sunderland team.

But the former Coventry stopper has nothing but praise for Paolo Di Canio, and has moved to downplay recent press rumours of a player revolt at the Stadium Of Light.

I have got on well with him and all the coaches. I really like them all, Domenico (the goalkeeper coach) is great to work with, they want to work hard and they are extremely professional and are just really nice people.

I think he will do really well. We need to sign a few players because the squad is not big enough but they have brought a really different approach to the previous gaffer and I like the way he works.

Everyone talks about days off, or discipline, but the majority of the lads have signed up for his methods and the way he wants the club to progress.

It has been blown up because it is Paolo Di Canio but discipline and fines are a part of everyday life at every club. Normally we don’t get to hear about them and it remains in-house.

Discipline is needed but it was a bigger issue at Sunderland because the manager talked about it openly in the press. And it was a new manager, with new ideas, so inevitably a few people got caught out. But no one does it deliberately or maliciously.

People make mistakes but I don’t think any player has a problem with discipline, in fact they will adhere to discipline.

Last month there were widespread reports of players being unhappy under the new and much stricter regime at Sunderland under Di Canio. We were regaled with tales of discontent and complaints to the PFA. In a wholly unsurprising turn of events, it soon became clear that it was the lazier and more useless members of the squad upset at actually being asked to do a little work for a change.

Yesterday, Connor Wickham threw his backing behind the Italian, and other players such as John O'Shea, Adam Johnson, and Alfred N'Diaye have also publicly offered their support. But the endorsement from a player who has every reason to be feeling frustrated at the club is perhaps most telling of all.

Westwood has been fairly unfortunate since his move to Sunderland. He has generally impressed when given a chance, with one double save at Old Trafford during his first season a particularly memorable highlight, but the form and fitness of Simon Mignolet - one of only a handful of players across the whole division to have started every Premier League game last season - has proven an insurmountable obstacle.

Having seen a lack of club football scupper his international chances, Westwood is understandably looking at his future.

I love it at Sunderland and I do think I have improved there. But it is going to be very difficult for me if I am not playing. We’ll see what happens in the close season.

I literally cannot get into the Sunderland team because Simon has done so well, and I accept that. I understand Premier League clubs need two good keepers, and the manager was nervous in case anything happened to Simon, but it was a disaster for me.

I have tried to take positives from the last year but it has not been an easy time, and I can’t hide from that. There have been some dark times when it really has felt like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes you’re in a dark place, on your own, nowhere to turn.

The simple thing about me though is I just want to play football. I need to be stimulated. Some players are happy whatever happens, but it’s not for me.

So I need to get myself playing and give myself a good chance of playing over here (for Ireland). Of course, that’s what Mr Trapattoni said to me. He said, "I’m sorry to leave you out, but you’re not playing". I’ve just got to get back playing, week in and week out.

Much may depend on Simon Mignolet's own future. The Belgian has been linked with moves to Liverpool and Arsenal this summer already. Should anyone succeed in prising him away from Wearside, many fans consider Westwood an ideal replacement who would allow the money to be used to strengthen elsewhere.

However, with Pepe Reina declaring his desire to stay at Anfield, Julio Cesar hinting at Arsenal talks, and an apparent resolve at Sunderland to keep Mignolet and tie him down to a fresh deal, Westwood may not feel he is in a position to wait.

The message from Westwood here is clear - if Mignolet doesn't move on, then he has to. Fair enough. I don't think any fans can reasonably begrudge him that.

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