Although no one would profit more than Keiren Westwood from Shay Given's continuing unavailability as UEFA EURO 2012 approaches, no one wants the Republic of Ireland's regular No1 to be fit in time more than his understudy.
The Sunderland AFC goalkeeper deputised for Given in Saturday's 1-0 victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina and produced a superb performance in what was his first outing since 26 December. Yet while he would relish the opportunity to help Giovanni Trapattoni's side get to grips with Group C during the finals, Westwood is wishing Given a speedy return from his knee injury.
"Shay is a hero of mine, so I couldn't wish him any ill will," he said. "So, OK, I may have benefited if he was unavailable, but that isn't what I want as a person or what we want as a squad. We want Shay fit. At club level, a little bitterness can exist within a squad, but we have none of that here. We are all in it together."
That much was made clear by Ireland's cohesive display against credible opposition at the Dublin Arena. Defensively sound, electric on the wings and potent in attack, they would have won more comfortably had they not been twice denied by the woodwork.
The result extended Ireland's unbeaten record to 13 games and 14 months, and Westwood believes Ireland have the capacity to cause an upset in a tough section. They first take on Croatia in Poznan on 10 June, before facing holders Spain four days later and Italy on 18 June.
"Mr Trapattoni has done a great job and the lads have bought into what he wants us to do," explained the Manchester-born keeper. "We are reaping the benefits of that now and we may surprise a few people in Poland."
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