Given impressed by Westwood
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has received the backing of Shay Given.
Last Updated: 23/03/11 1:41pm
Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has received the backing of Shay Given as he prepares to play his first competitive international against Macedonia.
Given has made the position his own over the past few years but will miss Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier at the Aviva Stadium due to injury.
Coventry No.1 Westwood will therefore line up between the posts for one of the biggest games of his career, and Given has assured supporters there is no reason to worry.
Given also expects his compatriot to secure a transfer in the summer that will take his career to a higher level.
"The country is in safe hands. I have been very impressed by him since he has come into the squad," Given told Irish broadcaster RTE.
"Clubs will be looking at him in the summer as I believe his contract is up and no disrespect to Coventry, but he can move to a bigger club.
"The whole country will be behind him and the team on Saturday."
Giovanni Trapattoni's men head into the game sitting in second place behind Group B leaders Russia, but level on points with Armenia and Slovakia after four games.
Given said: "We have got to win and get three points if we are realistic about qualifying.
"It's been too long since we were at a major finals. The nation needs a pick-up and the best way of doing that is by qualifying.
"We have a realistic chance, but it will be tough. Worst-case scenario, we make the play-off and get a favourable draw."
Given, who has been usurped as Manchester City's first-choice keeper by Joe Hart, still hopes to play again this season.
He is working hard to recover from a shoulder problem as quickly as possible and would love to feature in the away game against Macedonia in June.
"I saw the specialist in London on Wednesday and he's happy. I'm upping the rehab and doing more strength work," said Given.
"I hope to be back playing by the end of April. We have some Ireland games too in May and the big one in June.
"It's been extremely frustrating. I haven't played enough this season and to top it off, I got injured when I wasn't even playing.
"But I will get my head down, won't feel sorry for myself and try to be positive.
"Anything can happen in football - Joe might get injured or suspended and I have to be ready to step in."
Republic team-mate Liam Lawrence, meanwhile, has hit out at players that only want to represent Ireland because they have failed to win England recognition.
Stoke midfielder Jermaine Pennant and Jamie O'Hara, currently on loan at Wolves, have both suggested they could declare for Ireland, but Lawrence says their comments have not gone down particularly well with the Irish camp.
The Portsmouth midfielder said: "The only thing I know upsets us is when people are trying to juggle between England and Ireland.
"That's the only issue, really, and it's not just me saying that. It doesn't look good, does it?
"We don't dislike these people, it is just some of the comments they come out with when they are saying they are juggling between Ireland and England - you just don't want it, do you?"