Larsson aiming for Europe

The 26-year-old Sweden midfielder formally completed his free

transfer move from Birmingham this morning when he signed a

three-year deal at the Stadium of Light. He, like former Blues

colleague Craig Gardner, who sealed his switch to Wearside from St

Andrew’s on Thursday night, has left behind Europa League football

after opting instead to remain in the Barclays Premier League.

However, he is convinced that having managed a first top-10 finish

since their return to the top flight last time around, the Black

Cats should be raising their sights when the new campaign gets

under way. Larsson told SAFC TV: “It’s a big club with big

ambitions. We have got to try to improve each year – hopefully,

that’s the aim and that’s what I think the club is aiming for.

“Everything is here to progress and with a good start, why not

challenge for Europe if it’s possible?” Larsson, of course, knows

Bruce well from their time together in the midlands – it was the

Sunderland boss who took him to Birmingham from Arsenal – and the

winger is looking forward to re-establishing that working

relationship after gravitating ever closer to his homeland. He

said: “Obviously, it wasn’t a bad thing for me. It worked well when

I worked with him at Birmingham the last time, and when he showed

that he wanted me here, it made the decision that little bit

easier. “I started off my career in England in London, I have just

seemed to go further and further north. “It just felt like the

right move for me because it’s a big club with ambitions and if

things go well, then you never know how far it can go.” Larsson’s

arrival at the Stadium of Light coincided with that of former

Coventry keeper Keiren Westwood, who has also put pen to paper on a

three-year contract after ending his time at Coventry. The Republic

of Ireland international will provide stiff competition for the

currently injured Craig Gordon and Belgium international Simon

Mignolet. Speculation over Gordon’s future has been rife since it

emerged Westwood was in Bruce’s sights, and with the Scotland

international set to miss the start of the season as he recovers

from knee surgery, the newcomer will have an early opportunity to

press his claims. He started his career at Manchester City, but was

released as a teenager and has since had to work his way back up

the divisions after rekindling his career at Carlisle, initially in

the Conference. Westwood, also 26, said: “When I got released by

Manchester City as a 19-year-old, it was the kick up the bum that I

needed, and it gave me that hunger and desire to prove a lot of

people wrong. “I started down in the Conference and I have

gradually worked my way back up. “At the end of the day, it’s a

game of football. Obviously, the level is going to improve and that

is something I am relishing and really looking forward to.”

Westwood has seven senior international caps – he qualifies through

his grandmother – and is determined to push number one Shay Given

all the way for the top spot. He said: “Obviously, that is very

difficult. Shay Given is an amazing goalkeeper and he has dominated

the goalkeeping situation for Ireland for many years now.

“Obviously that’s another challenge that I have been chipping away

at for the last couple of years, and hopefully playing in the

Premier League will make it harder for me and a bit of a challenge

for him.”