Kieren Westwood is proving to be one of, if not the best goalkeeper in the Championship this season. A summer signing for Sheffield Wednesday after his release from Sunderland, Westwood has been the shining light in a fairly average season so far for Wednesday.
Playing in every league fixture so far, Westwood has conceded 21 times which is the second least amount conceded in the Championship, with ten clean sheets. Not bad for a goalkeeper of a team in 13th position and no doubt would be a lot worse off if it wasn’t for Westwood nearly single handily winning points for Wednesday, at times.
The 30-year-old was plagued with injuries during his time at Sunderland from 2011 until this past summer. He only made 19 Premier League appearances but started the 2013/14 campaign as first-choice, until a shoulder injury ended his season in November.
Westwood started his career at Man City but first became a regular starter at Carlisle United who he joined in 2004. He quickly became a key player in the side that won promotion to League One in 2006. It was the key role he played in Carlisle’s League One play-off campaign in 2007/08 which brought about a move to the Championship with Coventry City. This included a magnificent display in the play-offs against Leeds.
It is a little bit of a mystery to why such a good goalkeeper is playing in the Championship. Perhaps he felt he needed to take the step down to prove himself by playing regular football again for the first time since 2011. With some of his unbelievable performances this season, surely a number of Premier League teams will have half-an-eye on him during the next couple of transfer windows.
Westwood has produced Man of the Match displays against Leeds and Norwich, and also had one of his better matches against Huddersfield. The performance against Norwich was one of the best I have seen from a goalkeeper for many years – which was also by Westwood in Coventry’s 1-0 victory over Birmingham in 2008. He made a number of top quality saves to single handily deny Norwich and win a point for Wednesday, demonstrating his excellent reflex and shot stopping abilities.
There are some quality goalkeepers in the Championship; with the likes of Carl Ikeme, John Ruddy and David Marshall to name a few. But neither of these keepers have had their team be as reliant on them as Sheffield Wednesday have been on Westwood. It was the same when Westwood was at Coventry between 2008 and 2011.
His debut season saw him named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year, due to some memorable performances. These performances came on a week in week out basis during his stay at the Sky Blues, with his saves being one of the main reasons they stayed in the Division over this period.
After being out for so long until this season he is yet to win back the number one shirt for the Republic of Ireland. He has 17 caps for the Irish, last playing in November 2013. But that will surely change if he continues to put in the performances he has been doing on a regular basis for Sheffield Wednesday.