Sheffield Wednesday: Owls ‘keeper prioritises league over cup success

Owls keeper Keiren Westwood.
Owls keeper Keiren Westwood.
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For Owls number one Keiren Westwood, the FA Cup is a tournament Sheffield Wednesday could really do without.

Stuart Gray’s charges will be backed by a big following when they take on Westwood’s boyhood club Manchester City in the third round of the world’s oldest cup competition on Sunday.

It will be the second time the two sides have played each other this season, with Premier League heavyweights City hammering the Owls 7-0 in the Capital One Cup last September.

Gray’s men go into the tie having won back-to-back Championship matches. Tuesday’s 1-0 triumph at Wigan Athletic moved them up to 10th in the table, six points shy of the play-off positions. The league remains the overriding priority for Westwood, who was an unused substitute in the Owls’ last meeting with City.

In a frank admission, Westwood told The Star: “We’ve got a few big games coming up and we are just outside the play-offs. We play Nottingham Forest away in our next league game who are in and around us in the table so for me that’s a bigger game than City. I would rather get in the play-offs and maybe get promoted.”

Westwood started his career at City, learning the ropes behind England number one David James and Nicky Weaver. Ex-Owls star Weaver now works as the club’s academy goalkeeping coach.

Manchester-born Westwood said: “I came through the ranks at City and Weavs [Weaver] was the first-team goalkeeper so I ended up training with him.

“He looked after me when I was growing up. I was a ball boy for Weavs when the club were in League One.

“He would have a go at me if I was standing behind the goal and not getting the ball back quick enough! Weavs was a great keeper. He’s a great fellow and good to have around the place.”

The 30-year-old turned down the opportunity to rejoin City following his summer exit from Sunderland. After three injury-hit seasons at the Stadium of the Light, Westwood opted to move to Hillsborough as he looked to get his career back on track. He said Owls goalkeeping coach Andy Rhodes played a big part in his decision to drop down a level.

Westwood, who has recorded 11 clean sheets in 24 starts, said: “I’ve known Rhodesy since I was 19 years old and he was one of the main reasons I came here.

“He had been trying to get me here for a good few years. They tried to sign me on loan when I was at Sunderland and wasn’t really playing but I wasn’t allowed out.

“It’s been a long time linking back up with Rhodesy. He has been good with me and the goalkeeping stable is great here. We all get on well and work hard together.”

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