Keiren Westwood to make debut against Nigeria
The Republic of Ireland senior squad assembled today (Tuesday) in London to begin training for Friday’s friendly match against Nigeria at Craven Cottage, which will form preparation for the World Cup qualifier away to Bulgaria on June 6.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni was missing Kevin Doyle, Shay Given and Caleb Folan from his original squad but both Given and Folan are expected to recover from their hip and knee knocks respectively in time for the trip to Sofia.
Given’s absence paves the way for Keiren Westwood to earn his first cap in goal against the Super Eagles, though this was always going to be case, according to Trap.
“Shay Given has a knock,” said the manager following today’s first squad training session, staged at Arsenal’s London Colney training centre. “I already said that we will see Westwood in this game so Shay will rest.”
Westwood, 24, was born in Manchester and his paternal grandparents were Irish. After joining Manchester City at 13, he was released six years later, joining Carlisle United in the Conference.
He helped them to promotion to the English League in 2005 and they were quickly promoted to League One.
A sensational season in 2007/’08 saw him keep 19 clean sheets and he helped Carlisle to the play-offs where they lost narrowly to Leeds United in the semi-finals. Last summer, he won his maiden call-up to the Irish squad for the training camp in Portugal but has yet to be capped.
His form resulted in a move to Coventry City in June 2008, when he signed a three-year contract, and played 49 times during his first campaign at the Ricoh Arena.
Trapattoni also indicated newcomer Leon Best, also of Coventry City, may figure in his first senior outing on account of Caleb Folan’s absence through injury.
“Caleb will be okay after the rest, and on Monday he will be with us,' he said. “I also have Leon Best. He is a different player but he is a similar build and can play that way.”