Sheff Weds v Leeds Utd: Owls No 1 Westwood happy to share out the praise

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When the end-of-season awards are handed out at Hillsborough, Keiren Westwood is likely to be swamped with trophies.

The Owls’ goalkeeper and centre-back Tom Lees have arguably had the biggest influence on head coach Stuart Gray’s side since their arrival last summer on free transfers.

Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kieren Westwood thwarts Leeds United's Jason Pearce at Elland Road last October (Picture: Tony Johnson).

Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Kieren Westwood thwarts Leeds United's Jason Pearce at Elland Road last October (Picture: Tony Johnson).

Republic of Ireland international Westwood arrived from Sunderland, looking to play regularly after a shoulder injury saw him lose six months of game time, while Lees was allowed to leave Leeds United – today’s visitors to S6.

They are part of a Wednesday defence which has equalled the club’s league record of 17 clean sheets in a season.

Stop Leeds scoring today, or Watford next weekend, and they will go down in history as one of Wednesday’s best defences.

For a club who have boasted England internationals like Chris Woods, Des Walker and Andy Hinchcliffe in years gone by, it is some achievement.

Not that Westwood, who has often single-handedly kept opposition strikers at bay with some breathtaking saves and is arguably the best goalkeeper outside of the Premier League, is keen to take all the glory.

“It’s not just down to one person, it’s down to a whole number of people,” says Westwood, of matching the clean sheet record of Jack Charlton’s team of the late Seventies.

“It’s been a good season, but clean sheets don’t just come from the goalkeeper, they come from everywhere.

“We had the same back five for a long time, that helped, with (Jose) Semedo – who has had a great season – in front.

“I could pick out names throughout the team. Atdhe (Nuhiu) is winning headers from corners, and heading it away, (Liam) Palmer is clearing them off the post.

“I could literally name everybody for something they have done to help in keeping a clean sheet.

“At the start of the season, it was not really something which I envisaged or really thought about, if I am honest.

“It’s great just to have the opportunity, to say we equalled or broke the record.

“The season has gone quite well. I have enjoyed it, it’s been a positive season for the club in general.

“We have worked really hard as a team, we have over-achieved, I don’t think anyone can say any different.

“Now with the backing of the new owners, you never know where things can go.”

What makes the Owls’ defensive record even more impressive – 46 goals conceded in 44 games, the best outside of the top four in the Championship – is the number of injuries which have disrupted the back four.

Captain Glenn Loovens and midfield enforcer Semedo have missed large chunks, and Lewis Buxton, Kamil Zayatte, Joe Mattock and Claude Dielna have all suffered with injuries.

“We have missed Loosens and Semedo, but Liam Palmer has had a fantastic season at right-back, he’s played the majority of the games,” says Westwood. “Everyone has put in a real shift.

“I always try to do my best, give as much as I can in every game. I will let other people say what they want about my performances,” adds the 30-year-old when probed to evaluate whether this season has been his best to date.

What Westwood does know is that the Owls are destined for a summer shake-up as new owner Dejphon Chansiri looks to plot a return to the Premier League inside two seasons.

“The owner says he wants to get promoted to the Premier League within two seasons, so I am expecting a big turnover (in the summer) if I am honest.

“I don’t really know what to say, until the season ends and I guess the gaffer will talk to all the players that are here already, get them signed up and increase the squad,” says Westwood.

“We have had a great season, the lads have done great and deserve all the plaudits they are getting. We have worked hard together, have a good team spirit, and a nucleus of a good squad.”

Westwood has been constantly linked with a return to the Premier League this season, and the Owls’ new financial strength looks set to be tested over the summer with top-flight clubs circling.

The former Manchester City and Coventry City goalkeeper says he never had any intention of swapping Hillsborough for a quick return to the Premier League.

“It wasn’t in the forefront of my mind,” he says, about a rumoured move. “I had literally just got here and it would have been very silly to leave a club after two months of being here.

“It’s not my scene, not my style, and I was always going to see the season out. I am very happy here and have enjoyed my time here. It’s been great.

“I never envisaged getting clean sheet records, I just wanted to come and play and get back out there again. I had six months out with a shoulder operation, and just wanted to play and show everyone I was still alive. I am happy to have done that.”

Leeds were crushed 6-0 the last time they played at Hillsborough, not that Westwood is reading too much into that scoreline.

“You can’t look at past games; everything is different now, new teams and squads – Leeds have a new team, too,” he says.

“This is a new game. Everyone spoke about the 6-0 game at the start of the season, when we drew 1-1 (at Elland Road).

“It’s irrelevant now, it’s been and gone.

“We just have to get a win (today) and go out on a high at Hillsborough.”

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