Cameron Dawson believes he is a better goalkeeper than he was 12 months ago.
Rewind to December last season and the 24-year-old was No 1 under then manager Jos Luhukay.
But with a slump in form – just one win in 10 games – the pressure was mounting for change, both on the field and in the dug-out.
And when Luhukay was axed, one of the first decisions of caretaker boss Lee Bullen was to take rookie Dawson out of the firing line and recall Keiren Westwood, the experienced Republic of Ireland international being one of several key players to have been frozen out by Luhukay.
Wednesday immediately recorded back-to-back wins – over Preston North End and Middlesbrough – and Dawson featured in just six more games after Christmas.
Westwood started the season as No 1, but his red card on the opening day win at Reading offered Dawson an early chance and he has started five Championship games this term – conceding just three goals. With Westwood currently nursing a shoulder injury, Dawson is enjoying an extended run in the team and believes he has benefited from time on the sidelines.
It’s nice to hear when the manager speaks well about you and wants you to be part of the club.Cameron Dawson
“You can’t stand still in this game and if you come out of the team there is a reason why,” Dawson told The Yorkshire Post.
“If you are the best player every week you don’t come out of the team. There was obviously work to do I knew that and it was a case of taking a step back for me, taking myself out of the situation, taking the emotion out of it.
“During that time last season it was hard. The team were low on confidence and I felt every time anyone was speaking to the press they were starting to bat things off and it got a bit repetitive.
“I wanted to take myself out of that situation for a little bit and reassess, go away, find what things I needed to work on and go put the work in.
“I never want to come out of the team and at the time I didn’t want to. But I look back at it now, and where I was and where I feel I am now, and I feel really good about where I am now.”
With Westwood now 35, Dawson – along with Joe Wildsmith – is seen as the goalkeeping future at Hillsborough.
But his current contract expires next summer and Owls boss Garry Monk is keen to tie the goalkeeper down to a new deal.
“He is a big part of my plans and it’s important we keep him at the club,” confirmed Monk. “He wants to be here and I can’t see any problem with that at all. His focus right now has to be on the football, which it is.”
The pair have had informal chats, but no new official contract talks have been held yet.
“It’s nice to hear when the manager speaks well about you and wants you to be part of the club,” said Dawson, who came through the Academy at Hillsborough, and had loan spells at Plymouth Argyle, Wycombe and Chesterfield.
“The main thing is that you are wanted, and if I am wanted here that’s the main thing for me. I have had a lot of talks with the manager, some really open positive talks, but in terms of contract talks they have not started yet.
“That’s something I’m quite easy about to be honest. I am at a great football club, of course I am open to new contract talks.
“Everyone wants to play football I am no different to that, but the gaffer has told me that ultimately that is down to me.
“It’s up to me how far I want to go and how far I want to take my career. It’s a case of keep working hard and trying to push on.”
Dawson starts today against Brentford at Hillsborough, when the Owls will be looking to upset a winning sequence.
Their eight league wins this season have all come against teams currently occupying the bottom eight spots in the Championship. If Monk’s team are to progress – they currently sit ninth, two points outside the top six – they need to start collecting maximum-point hauls against teams in the top half.
“To get in the top six you have to win games, it doesn’t matter where the wins come from come the end of the season,” said Dawson. “Like always, you go into every season thinking this could be the one.
“We know ourselves we have dropped a few points recently but in the Championship they can soon be made back up. With games coming thick and fast it’s a great time to do it.
“A club like Sheffield Wednesday, if you are happy with mid table, then you are just wasting your time.
“This club has expectations. Whether you want to hide behind them or not, we know what they are and that’s what we are working towards.”