SHEFFIELD Wednesday goalkeeper Stephen Bywater is banking on new manager Dave Jones to lead the club to promotion.
But Bywater also plans to make amends for the howler that stopped him getting to the Premier League with Cardiff City last season.
Tonight, the Owls host Bury with Jones taking charge of team affairs for the first time since replacing Gary Megson four days ago.
Bywater ended last season playing under Jones at Cardiff and the Welsh club suffered the heartbreak of a 3-0 defeat against Reading in the Championship play-off semi-finals.
To make matters worse, the goalkeeper’s blunder – an attempted clearance hitting striker Shane Long – opened the floodgates in the second leg catastrophe.
Ten months on, the pair have been reunited with the goal now promotion from League One rather than the Championship.
Jones appears to have forgiven the goalkeeper although the incident is still only discussed through gritted teeth. More significantly, Bywater is confident that Jones is an ideal man to finish the job started by Megson.
“You have got to be open-minded in football and we have to trust the manager,” said Bywater. “I know I do and I hope the lads will trust in his decision-making.
“The new manager is going to add to what we have already got and I welcome everything he brings to the table.
“As a manager, he is open and honest, he likes to play, mix things up and you can go to him with any problems. He’s a good guy and just look at his record. He’s got teams promoted to the Premier League.”
Bywater admitted that Megson’s departure did not come as a shock despite the victory over Sheffield United in the Steel City derby just three days earlier.
Jones, unveiled as a manager within 48 hours, took a watching brief for the goalless draw at Rochdale but will have staged three sessions with his new players before tonight’s game. Terry Burton, who worked as Jones’s assistant at Cardiff, has now joined the backroom staff after a spell under Roy Hodgson at West Bromwich Albion.
“It’s been a normal footballing week really,” reflected Bywater. “A shock? Not really. No. I believe there were a few meetings and the new manager’s come in. Anything can happen in football. Now we’ve got a new manager, that I have worked with before, and it is exciting times.
“Players are cogs in a wheel,” he shrugged. “We work with whoever is in charge. I am glad the coaching staff I have worked with for the last three months are staying because they are good – but if the manager wants to change it, so be it. That’s life. It’s a business. We are not here to make friends are we?
“I worked with the coaching staff at Cardiff and Terry (Burton) does a lot of work. He’s a very clever man who gets the sessions across to the lads on the pitch. He’s a bit more quiet and reserved than the manager because the gaffer can certainly let you know what he wants, he can let fly.”
As the only player with previous first-team experience under Jones, Bywater was inevitably a subject for questioning from team-mates wanting an immediate insight into their new manager’s style.
“Some of the lads asked me what he was like and I said his sessions are very good. If you have any problems, you can go to him and he will speak to you like a friend. He just wants everyone to give their all. He wants us to carry on how we are doing and win more games.”
With 12 games to play, the Owls are third in the table, four points behind second-placed Sheffield United, who still have a game in hand.
The decision to sack Megson was unpopular with Owls supporters but Bywater says it would be a ‘disgrace’ if anyone holds that against Jones.
Asked whether Jones would get a good reception from the crowd tonight, he replied: “I hope so. He deserves one. Look at his past record and what kind of man he is. He’s an honest man. If they don’t (give a good reception), it’s a disgrace, really.”
Unsurprisingly, Bywater wants to avoid the play-offs this season and go up automatically.
The Blades, who lost at home to Oldham Athletic last weekend, are still firm favourites to finish in the top two with Charlton but no-one at Hillsborough is waving a white flag.
“I reckon we can still get number two,” says Bywater. “We have had two clean sheets in a row, we just need to score more goals, create more chances, and we will be fine.
“There are still a lot of twists and turns to come. If we had got three points against Rochdale, it would have been a tighter gap. I believe we can still get second place and the manager feels the same. We just have to go about our own business and enjoy the last 12 games.”
Jones smiled when asked if he ‘rated’ Bywater yesterday. “I didn’t rate him in the last game of the season when he kicked the ball against my defender’s head and the ball went in the back of the net,” he observed.
“I don’t forget anything. I have a fanastic memory! But it’s good to know players when you walk in because they can tell the other boys (about you).
“I would hope the players who have worked with me have a bit of respect. Wherever I’ve worked, I have been fortunate enough to be relatively successful.”
Last six games: Owls LLLLWD, Bury DLLDLD.
Last time: Owls 1 Bury 0, August 10, 2010, Carling Cup.
Referee: MP Russell (Hertfordshire).