23rd October – Keiren Westwood

Keiren Westwood has arguably been the best signing of the season in the Championship as he has performed brilliantly for Sheffield Wednesday and has won them some valuable points in an encouraging start to the season.

The signing of Westwood was an interesting one as Wednesday already had Chris Kirkland, who in his own right is one of the best keepers in the Championship but it seems that Stuart Gray made a fantastic decision signing the goalkeeper. Now that he is once again first choice player he will be hoping that his form can convince the Republic of Ireland management that he deserves to be his country’s number one.

The 30 year old started his career at Manchester City but never played a first team game as he was understudy to David James and Nicky Weaver. In his final season at City he joined Oldham Athletic on loan, however he also didn’t play a game for them as he broke his hand and at the end of the season he was released by his parent club. In 2004 he had trials at Bradford City and Accrington Stanley but after being unsuccessful he contemplated retiring from the game and becoming a police officer.

But in 2004 he was given another chance at Conference club Carlisle United and was largely an understudy to Matt Glennon, finally making his debut in March 2005 after an injury to Glennon. In total he played four games in his first season. The following campaign Glennon left and the club brought in Anthony Williams who was expected to be the first choice. However, Westwood finally got his chance to be the club’s number one and proved his ability. He played 35 League Two games, helping the club win the title and continued to be an important member of the team.
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Over the next two seasons he remained first choice and at the end of the 2007-08 season he was named in the League One PFA Team of the Year and also won the club’s Player of the Year, this form led to interest from other clubs. On the 18th June 2008 Westwood joined Coventry City for an undisclosed fee and proved straightway that he could make the step up to the Championship as he was named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year. In the 2009-10 season he then went on to win the club’s Player of the Year.
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After 138 appearances he left the club on a free transfer and joined Sunderland on the 1st July 2011. His time at the club was less successful as he was never given a real run in the side as Simon Mignolet was usually in good form. But after the Belgian’s departure to Liverpool, it seemed as though Westwood would become first choice and at the start of the 2013-14 season he was given the opportunity to show his quality in the Premier League, however he would only play 10 Premier League games and because of the club’s poor results he was dropped for Vito Mannone.

Now at Wednesday he will be hoping that he can help the club challenge for the playoffs, although this may be out of reach this season, they have made a decent start and this has been down to some impressive performances from the goalkeeper, with the club only conceding 11 goals in the first 11 league games.
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The final word can go to Wednesday midfielder Chris Maguire. “He’s kept us in five or six games, making valuable saves at the right time. He’s up there with the best I’ve worked with, but Chris Kirkland is a great keeper as well, so it’s great for competition and it’s a hard one for the manager.”

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31st August – Pepe Reina

Pepe Reina is now without doubt the best second choice keeper in world football both at club level and international level and he should be at a top club playing every single game.

Now at Bayern Munich, the goalkeeper is behind Manuel Neuer in the pecking order but at least he has experience of sitting on the bench as he has done it for Spain for a number of years as he has watched Iker Casillas. Some would argue that he should still be Liverpool’s first choice but Brendan Rodgers went with Simon Mignolet even though Reina fits his style of football.

Reina started his career at Barcelona and from 1997 he was the first choice goalkeeper for the reserve side before being called up to the first team in 2000 after injuries. He made his debut in a 3-3 draw with Celta Vigo on the 2nd of December. In total he made 33 appearances for the club that season and helped them reach the semi finals of the UEFA Cup.
Jose Reina
In the following season he had to settle for a place on the bench for most of the campaign but did still play in 16 games. In July 2002 he joined Villarreal and was their undisputed number one barely missing a game in his three seasons at the club and became one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Europe. He played 136 times in all competitions before joining Liverpool in July 2005.
Reina Villarreal
He made his Liverpool debut in the Champions League qualifier against Welsh side TNS. His first season at the club was very successful as he helped them win the FA Cup and also a huge success personally. On the 3rd December against Wigan Athletic he kept his sixth consecutive clean sheet in the Premier League, and then went on to break the clean sheet record in all competitions after not conceding for 11 games.

In his first season he played 53 games and he holds a Liverpool record of conceding the fewest amount of goals in 50 games, conceding just 29. And at the end of the season he was awarded the Golden Glove for keeping 20 clean sheets and in the FA Cup final he saved three of West Ham’s four penalties to lift the trophy.

The 2006-07 season was just as impressive for the keeper as he once again won the Golden Glove after keeping 19 clean sheets and was also a hero in another penalty shootout against Chelsea in the Champions League semi final. Once again in the 2007-08 season he won the Golden Glove for the third consecutive season with 18 clean sheets and on the 2nd February 2008 he became the quickest goalkeeper in Liverpool history to reach 50 clean sheets.
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Reina continued to be Liverpool’s number one for the next few seasons and in 2011 he broke the club record for clean sheets in a 2-0 win over Chelsea. But after a red card in a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United it meant that his streak of 183 consecutive Premier League appearances came to an end.

On the 19th July 2013 he signed for Napoli on a season long loan and helped them win the Coppa Italia but after 41 appearances his loan was not made permanent and he returned to Liverpool. On the 8th August 2014 Reina left Liverpool after 394 games and joined Bayern Munich.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “Pepe’s record at Liverpool is very good. He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He’s had a lot of clean sheets and you can see the confidence the defenders have in him. When he plays, the defenders look very comfortable and that is so important.”