Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood admits he must become Sunderland’s first choice shot stopper or else he will "have to assess" his situation.
The 27-year-old put in a confident and reassuring display between the posts in the Boys in Green’s goalless stalemate with Serbia on Wednesday and with the recent retirement of Shay Given, Westwood is now in possession of the Republic of Ireland number one jersey.
With the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign just around the corner, Giovanni Trapattoni has warned the English-born goalkeeper that he has to be playing regular first team football if he wants to keep hold of the jersey.
"You have to be playing club football, which is my aim, to get into the first team and I'll take it from there. If I don't play it's something I will have to assess, but my main aim is obviously to get into the team." he told the Irish Times.
Martin O’Neill’s side begin their Premier League campaign with a trip to Arsenal on Saturday and after sharing the goalkeeping duties during pre-season with Belgian Simon Mingolet, Westwood admits O’Neill’s team selection on Saturday is one of the most important of his career.
"The gaffer doesn't name his team until two o'clock on a Saturday so I'll be waiting up until then," said Westwood. “Hopefully I'll get the nod, and if I don't then I'll have to have a look at it.”
The Irish international joined the Black Cats last summer on a free transfer from Coventry but had to settle for a place on the substitute’s bench as Mingolet became Steve Bruce’s first choice. However a nasty eye injury to the 24-year-old gave Westwood his chance between the sticks and he produced some fine saves on his league debut as well as putting in an impressive performance at Old Trafford but he played just nine games last campaign and when asked whether he would have to leave the Stadium of Light if he was second choice again, Westwood replied: "I don't want to get into that."
The former Manchester City schoolboy is taking over from Ireland’s most capped international and he admits it’s an opportunity he has been waiting for.
"I know this is an opportunity for me," said Westwood, who has yet to speak with Given but will do so over the weekend.
"Ever since I got into the squad about four years ago now, I've been working towards this moment.
"Shay is a great friend and a great goalkeeper, and I'd like to see him play one more game to get the adulation he deserves.
"He has put in 16 years of hard work and he deserves every bit of praise he gets.
"Of course he's a very proud man, and to play for your country for 16 years, it's a long old stretch.
"But he deserves praise for what he has done for Ireland. He is one of my heroes, one of my idols, and I can't speak highly enough of him."