Westwood looking to regain spot
Keiren Westwood will begin pre-season training determined to re-establish himself as number one for both Sunderland and Ireland.
The 28-year-old keeper endured a miserable 2012-13 campaign as his lack of club action - he made just three appearances for the Black Cats, all of them in the Capital One Cup - cost him his place in Giovanni Trapattoni's starting XI.
Westwood admitted earlier this month that he might have to leave the Stadium of Light to play regular football, although Simon Mignolet's impending move to Liverpool looks to have opened the door once again.
Sunderland have been linked with a move for PSV Eindhoven's Holland Under-21 international Jeoren Zoet, but Westwood's experience has put him at the head of the queue as new manager Paolo Di Canio overhauls his squad.
The former Coventry keeper will return with more than most to prove, but everything to gain after spending every second of the Italian's eight games to date sitting impotently on the bench.
However, goalkeeping coach Domenico Doardo has had a chance to see what he can do in training, and the club's fans are well aware of his ability after seeing him put together a run of eight successive starts the season before last with his run only ending because of a bout of illness.
Westwood's misfortune on Wearside did not initially affect him at international level, where he was chosen as the natural successor to Shay Given. He started the August friendly in Serbia and the World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan, Germany and the Faroe Islands before Trapattoni decided he needed his first-choice goalkeeper to be playing regularly.
As a result, Millwall's David Forde got the nod for November's friendly against Greece and has started six of the seven games since with Westwood earning a rare opportunity in the 4-0 friendly victory over Georgia on June 2. It was after that appearance that he admitted he may have to look for another club.
He said: "I love it at Sunderland, but if I'm not going to play... It's a tough decision, but I need to play football, I think that's evident in itself."
However, he was prescient too as he considered his options. He said: "A lot of stuff can happen over the off-season. Basically, I just want to play football. I'm looking forward to the future, if I'm honest. It's been a frustrating 12 months or so, so I'm looking to come out of the dark times and into some good ones."