Comment: What Sheffield Wednesday should do with Keiren Westwood

It's a strange, unique situation.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 14th August 2018, 11:43 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th August 2018, 11:48 am
Keiren Westwood is Wednesday's third-choice goalkeeper.
Keiren Westwood is Wednesday's third-choice goalkeeper.

Wednesday have three top goalkeepers on their books - but many observers believe the Championship club are not fielding their best one in between the sticks.

Keiren Westwood scooped the player of the year award in his first season at Hillsborough and also featured prominently in the Owls side who reached back-to-back play-offs.

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His handling is top notch and he is a superb shot-stopper. A fully-fit Westwood would be a major asset to any team in the second-tier. He is arguably Wednesday's best goalkeeper since Martin Hodge.

But Westwood missed the second half of last season with a groin injury. His lengthy spell on the sidelines opened the door ajar for academy starlets Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson. Both acquitted themselves well.

Sooner or later, though, something was going to have to give. Three into one doesn't go.

Cameron Dawson has been given the number one jersey by Owls boss Jos Luhukay.

Speaking about the goalkeeping department at the end of last season, Dawson said: "Whether it’s loans or something there’s going to have to be some (movement)."

No one left over the summer.

Luhukay assessed his shot-stoppers in pre-season. He gave them all game time in the friendly matches.

Ultimately, after their mini audition, Luhukay controversially plumped for Dawson as his No 1 and Wildsmith as No 2.

Westwood played an instrumental role in Wednesday's back-to-back play-off tilts.

In the space of eight months, Westwood has gone from first-choice to third. He has not even made the bench in their opening two fixtures.

It is a decision which has left many Wednesdayites bemused.

I can see both sides of the argument.

On one hand, it is commendable that Luhukay wants to blood young players. Given the Owls' well-documented financial constraints, youth is the way forward.

Joe Wildsmith looks set to start the Owls' Carabao Cup tie at Sunderland.

And the only way Dawson and Wildsmith will keep on developing and improving is by playing.

"From January, I have been working with two young very talented goalkeepers, 22 and 23," said Luhukay. "They can play for Sheffield Wednesday for a long, long time."

The Dutchman has denied there has been a fall-out with Westwood.

He said: "With the goalkeepers, we have spoken to them and they are clear.

"Keiren Westwood is number three and must wait for his chance if something happens to Joe or Cammy. That is the situation."

It is not the first time we have seen this ruthless side to Luhukay. It was similar with Glenn Loovens last season. Luhukay left Loovens, the club captain, out of multiple matchday squads, handing first-team opportunities to youngsters such as Jordan Thorniley and Frederik Nielsen.

Luhukay, a renowned disciplinarian, is happy to ruffle a few feathers. He doesn't care about reputations and what players have done in the past. His focus is on taking the club forward and laying solid foundations for the future.

What is crystal clear is Luhukay determined to lower the average age of the squad and does not view Westwood as part of his long-term plans. The Republic of Ireland international, who turns 34 in October and is out of contract at the end of the season, has been frozen out.

Has Luhukay made the right decision? Only time will tell.

But given Wednesday are a club in transition, surely Westwood's quality and experience would be invaluable right now?

He still has a lot to offer and his saves have earned the Owls so many points over the years. It is a big ask for Dawson to fill Westwood's shoes.

With Dawson and Wildsmith jumping ahead of Westwood in the pecking order for a starting berth, it does beg the question: why did Wednesday not they cash in on Westwood in the summer transfer window? There was interest in him but nothing concrete.

The loan market is open until the end of August so there is still a possibility Westwood may leave (although the Owls will demand a sizeable loan fee).

If Westwood does not go anywhere, I think Wednesday should start him. He is their best player in that position.

But I don't see Luhukay changing his mind.

So if Westwood is not going to play, it is probably in the best interests of all parties for him to move on. Otherwise he will have another four months plus where he plays very little football.