In Stuart Gray’s eyes, footballers thrive on competition.
And the goalkeeping department is certainly now looking healthy for Sheffield Wednesday.
Republic of Ireland international Keiren Westwood became the Owls’ first major summer signing on Monday night and Chris Kirkland commited his future to the Championship club yesterday, penning a new one-year deal.
Westwood and Kirkland will bring the best out of each other, according to Gray.
The Owls boss told The Star: “I want to improve the squad and make us competitive at this level. If anything, you’ve got to start with your goalkeeping area because it’s a very important part of the team to fill.
“I want two good players for each position. It is great that we have got Keiren and Chris signed up. One thing I do know is that they will enjoy on the competition. The keeper position is one I can put to bed and not worry about.”
Strength in depth is important as far as Gray is concerned.
“The last thing I want is a keeper being complacent and thinking he is guaranteed a place every week,” he said. “His form has got to be good and he has to be at the top of his game.”
Westwood, released by Sunderland at the end of his contract last week, has clocked up nearly 300 senior appearances in his career. Gray has outlined the attributes the 29-year-old possesses.
“Keiren is a good communicator,” he said. “He will organise his back four and he’s a leader.
“Keiren will give us experience and knowledge in that area. He has just come from the Premier League and wants us to push on and he is desperate to add to his 16 international caps.”
Westwood, who came through the youth ranks at Manchester City, made only 24 appearances across three seasons for Sunderland. He admits things “didn’t work out” for him at Wearside but he is ready to fight Kirkland for the number one spot.
“I’ve come here to play regular first-team football,” said Westwood. “I had an injury last season but I am fighting fit now so I’m looking to give a good account of myself and get playing.
“I’m quite happy if there is competition for the gloves. Kirky and I will push each other beyond limits which can only be good for the football club. It excites me working with Kirky. He’s an international goalkeeper. I’m happy enough to try and win that battle.”