SUNDERLAND are in the middle of signing a top young Polish keeper – as speculation hots up about the future of stopper Keiren Westwood.
The Black Cats are in negotiations, expected to be successful, with Polish side Polonia Warsaw over bringing teenage star Maksymilian Stryjek to England.
The 6ft 2ins, 16-year-old – who plays for the Polish Under-17 side – is ambitious and highly-rated, and caught the eye of coaches in a recent trial spell on Wearside.
Although he is likely to be fast-tracked at Sunderland’s Academy, he is a long way from pressing for Westwood’s place in the first-team squad, with third choice England Under-19 keeper Jordan Pickford ahead of the new arrival in the pecking order.
It is ironic, though, that Sunderland should sign a new keeper just as a current one becomes the focus of attention with Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trappatoni publicly suggesting Westwood should consider moving club if he wants to safeguard his international future.
Shay Given’s international retirement last summer opened the way for Westwood to become Ireland’s new long-term goalkeeper.
He was the clear and obvious choice, but Trappatoni has cast doubt on that happening by pointing out that he cannot look to rely on a goalkeeper who barely plays.
Westwood has played more times for the Republic this season than he has for Sunderland, starting all three of Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers and also featuring in one friendly, while he has been restricted to just three Capital One Cup outings for the Black Cats.
Perhaps significantly, Martin O’Neill preferred to play Simon Mignolet in the recent FA Cup games against Bolton, rather than give Westwood a chance to impress. And the keeper, already frustrated by his lack of opportunities, will be even more downcast after hearing his international manager’s verdict
Westwood was included in the Republic’s squad for tomorrow’s friendly against Poland in Dublin, but Trappatoni is set to play Millwall’s David Forde at the Aviva Stadium.
And the Italian says Westwood needs to either displace Simon Mignolet as Sunderland’s No1 – or move on if he is to keep his place in the national side.
“The goalkeeper is a particularly delicate position,” explained Trappatoni. “I hope Westwood can play in the future, but now the manager chooses Mignolet.
“I told him you can change club, and you can play.”