FORMER Sheffield Wednesday captain Steve Watson insists there will be no room for divided loyalties this weekend.
Now on the coaching staff at Huddersfield Town, Watson will be returning to the club where the curtain came down on his playing career two years ago.
He will always be regarded as a hero by Owls supporters thanks to a winning goal against Sheffield United in a Steel City derby at Hillsborough.
A photograph of this goal still hangs proudly on the wall of his parents’ home in Tyneside and will always have a special place in his heart.
However, speaking ahead of Saturday’s Yorkshire derby, Watson stressed that he will be 100 per cent focused on securing three points for his current club.
“As much as I enjoyed my time at Sheffield Wednesday, this is one of the biggest games of the season and we will be going to Hillsborough seeking a victory,” he said.
“At the end of the season, all I want to see is Huddersfield Town top of the table and I really don’t care who else comes up with us.”
Watson’s sheer professionalism is one of the main reasons why he was invited to join the Terriers set-up by manager Lee Clark last season.
Alongside Terry McDermott and Paul Stephenson, he has played a key supporting role as the Terriers have pushed for promotion, setting a Football League record for the longest unbeaten run of games along the way.
Ironically, Town have suffered three defeats in four games going into Saturday’s encounter and recently lost second spot in the table to the Owls.
“Losing the unbeaten record against Charlton hit the team as hard as any defeat would,” he reflected.
“But losing to Bournemouth last Saturday probably hurt us even more because we didn’t play anything like we know we can do.
“We have had a proverbial kick up the backside but we are determined to get back on track this weekend.
“We know that Sheffield Wednesday will be a handful,” he added. “They are physically a huge side and they never waste time putting balls into the box. From our point of view, we will need to cope physically and then impose our own brand of football.”
Watson believes that both clubs involved in Saturday’s contest belong at a higher level than League One.
During his time as a player, the Owls were a Championship club under Brian Laws but struggled to impact on the race for promotion to the Premier League.
“At Sheffield Wednesday, I rediscovered my love for football after a bad time at West Bromwich Albion. But I was finding it hard to recover from games and eventually had to tell Brian that I couldn’t play any more. It was not simply being unable to train, I was even struggling to play with the kids when I got home.
“Unfortunately, I had to leave the club quite abruptly so it will be nice to go back this weekend and see the people I remember. I had special times there helped by the fact that I scored a special goal.
“We won both games against Sheffield United during my final season at the club – in fact the game at Bramall Lane was the last time I played professional football. I mentioned that to the Huddersfield Town lads when we played there earlier this season and won.”
Released by the Owls in summer 2009, Watson made an unexpected return to Hillsborough as caretaker assistant manager six months later following the sacking of manager Laws.
At the time, he was using the club’s facilities to assist in his recovery from hip surgery.
Watson worked alongside Academy manager Sean McAuley for three games until the job was given to Alan Irvine.
“Every experience in football can help you in the future,” he recalled.
“I have not paid too much attention to what’s happened ‘upstairs’ (in the boadroom) since I left but on the the field, they seem to have turned a corner.
“The fans were always brilliant and it was a great place to play football. Unfortunately, in football, it is often the fans who have to pick up the pieces when managers, players, or boardroom members move on.”
Former Owls fitness coach Tom Little is another member of Town’s backroom team and midfielder Tommy Miller also moved to the West Yorkshire club this summer after being released by Wednesday manager Gary Megson.
Huddersfield are also said to be on the verge of making a £500,000 bid for Stoke City winger Ben Marshall, whose loan spell with Wednesday runs out next month.
Owls chief Megson is also keen to sign Marshall, 20, on a permanent deal.
Both Yorkshire clubs are also said to be interested in signing Preston North End’s former Barnsley striker Iain Hume, described by Clark earlier in the season as “one of the best players in the division – a quality operator who is probably operating below his level.”
But any move for the Canadian international may have to wait following the sacking of Preston manager Phil Brown yesterday.
Hume, who started with Tranmere and played more than 120 times for Leicester City, was seriously injured while playing for Barnsley in November 2008.
The striker, who was born in Edinbugh, received a fractured skull when he was elbowed to the head by Sheffield United defender Chris Morgan in a challenge.
He came back after nine months out and was later loaned to Preston before making the move permanent in January.
Derby manager Nigel Clough has confirmed that talks are ongoing for goalkeeper Stephen Bywater, 30, to remain at Wednesday.
Bywater joined the Owls on loan in September and has made 11 appearances, keeping six clean sheet. His loan will end following Saturday’s derby.
Injury blow for reds chief Hill
Barnsley chief Keith Hill will have to reshape his midfield over the festive period.
Manchester United prospect Danny Drinkwater has been ruled out for a month and has returned to Old Trafford for treatment.
The 21-year-old suffered a torn thigh muscle during the first half of Saturday’s 5-3 Championship home defeat by Ipswich Town.
Drinkwater’s loan at Oakwell expires on January 2 but Hill hopes to agree a new deal for the player who made 33 appearances for Huddersfield in 2009-10.
Drinkwater has made 16 appearances in the Championship for the Tykes this season.
“Danny’s injury is a blow because he’s been excellent this season but his injury presents opportunities for other players,” said Hill.