Sheffield Wednesday: Joe Wildsmith reflects on the highs and lows of his breakthrough campaign
It has been a season to remember for Joe Wildsmith.
The youngster has burst on to the scene, establishing himself as the Owls’ number two goalkeeper in their promotion push this season.
Wildsmith, a lifelong Wednesday fan, has earned rave reviews, leading to two England Under-21 call-ups.
But the precociously talented 20-year-old has also had to deal with injury frustration, having sustained a back problem which kept him out of action for six weeks.
Here he talks me through some of the highs and lows of his breakthrough campaign and the challenges that still lie ahead:
Dealing with an injury setback
It was disappointing as it halted my progress. It was very frustrating but these things happen in football. I’m sure I will get injured again. The injury could have been a lot worse.
It is all good now and I have had three weeks of training and feel good. It is nice to be back now.
I’ve got my sharpness back in training and played in a couple of development games. I needed to get games under my belt. Playing in the Under-21 game against Huddersfield on Tuesday was definitely what I needed. It was nice to get a clean sheet and hopefully now I am in the frame to play if I am called upon.
It was good to be back on the bench against Charlton. It shows what faith the gaffer and Andy Rhodes (goalkeeping coach) have got in me.
Going on international duty
It is a brilliant experience. You are testing yourself against the best English players in the country at that age group.
The set-up is really good. The standard is really high and we all push each other. Obviously we all want to play and there is really good competition.
Some of those players have played at the highest level so it has showed me what I need to do and improve.
England’s next generation
We’ve got some lads playing at Under-21 level and below who will be knocking on the door at senior level soon.
Some of the lads are joining up with the Under-21s thinking the sky’s the limit because there are boys who they know who are in the senior side.
You only have to look at Dele Ali to see what is possible. He is only 19 and the gaffer has shown he is prepared to give young talent a chance. If you prove yourself at club level, it just shows what can happen.
Everyone believes they can get into the squad. You want youth to come through and for everyone to be confident in their own ability. I think that’s what we have got with the Under-21s.
Winning his first Under-21 cap
It would be brilliant. I’ve had a taste for it at Under-20 level and there’s no better feeling than playing for your country. It is just a massive privilege. I know if I keep performing at club level that the international accolades will come.
Saturday’s draw at Switzerland was a good resultaway from home. We are top of the table and everyone is buzzing. We think we can beat anyone and that’s how you’ve got to go into every game.
Wednesday’s busy scheduel after the international break
Three games in a week is tough and will take its toll on the team but we have got the squad to rotate if we need to so everyone will be fresh. Morale and fitness is good and we are going into the final stage of the season feeling strong.
We are confident we can finish in the top six. It is in our hands. If we keep on winning, we will stay sixth or possibly higher. We are not waiting on other teams to slip up which is a nice position to be in.
You would rather it be in your hands than not at this stage of the season. It is down to us.
But we are taking it game by game. Our focus is now on Huddersfield. If we can win that, hopefully we will increase the gap between ourselves and the seventh-placed team.
The mood around S6
It is the biggest buzz that has been around the club in probably 10 to 15 years. Things have really taken off this year.
Having watched on as a kid, I’ve seen the club go through some tough times. We have been relegated a few times, have money problems and different chairman. Milan Mandaric then came in and he sorted everything out.
Now the chairman [Dejphon Chansiri] has taken things on to another level and that’s what we needed. It just needed a little kick up the bum to help it really kick on. The club is big enough to be in the Premier League and is what it deserves for the tough times it has had.
Helping Wednesday get promoted
I think Sheffield needs a team in the Premier League. If anything, both clubs should be in the top flight. It would be great and only benefit the city. Wednesday fans want to see their team back at the top level.