“I didn’t envisage this…” – From Wembley to a relegation battle - Keiren Westwood doesn’t know where it went wrong
Four years ago this week Sheffield Wednesday were about to begin a six-game winning run that secured a fourth-place finish – now they’re fighting for their lives.
Keiren Westwood played 82 games in the two seasons that the Owls reached the Play-Offs, and was there when they suffered heartbreak against Hull City at Wembley and Huddersfield Town at Hillsborough.
The 36-year-old has been through a lot since then, losing his place in the side before winning it back again, and Wednesday’s situation now is drastically different from how things looked on May 28th 2015 – even after defeat in the capital.
“After that game I was gutted,” he told The Star recently. “We all were, we were all really upset. Because we put so much into that season - to lose it with 15 minutes to go after doing everything all season was a tough blow.
“But I was talking to Carlos (Carvalhal) afterwards in the lounge, having a chat, and he said he knew what we needed and where we needed to go.
“We improved ourselves the following season, and went to fourth but fell short in the semis - which was again a shame.
“I didn’t envisage this was going to happen, but it’s the reality and it’s where we need to get out of.”
They’ve got eight games to do that, now, and Westwood is focused on the challenge ahead. The past is done, and he admits that he doesn’t really know where things went wrong.
He said, “If I’m honest, I don’t really know… It’s probably a catalogue of things of what’s gone on. Things have changed, and it’s probably a good number of things.”
And while he’s looking forward, there’s a significant milestone that he’s looking to achieve before the end of the current campaign – but there isn’t much wiggle room for the experienced shot-stopper.
Westwood has already played more games for the Owls than any other club in his career, surpassing his tally at Coventry City and Carlisle United, but at 193 he’s just seven games away from hitting his double century.
And the goalkeeper explained that hitting the 200-mark is a target that he set himself, saying, “Reaching 200 games was one of my targets when I came back under Tony (Pulis), it’s something I really wanted to do.
“Wherever I’ve been I’ve played a lot of games, and the longevity of it has been quite nice, but this is the highest number for any club that I’ve been at.”
He was dealt a blow against Barnsley when he had to withdraw from game after getting injured in the warm-up, meaning that he can only afford to miss one more game this season if he’s to pull It off.
On Friday night the Owls face Watford in their return to action following the international break at Vicarage Road, and ‘Westy’ will be desperate to get himself back in there and do his bit to aid the club’s survival hopes.
He doesn’t know what the future holds for him after admitting that there have been no talks about a new contract – he says he doesn’t think there will be for now – and that he’s not really too worried about it at this point in time.
What he is worried about, though, is making sure he and his SWFC teammates put up a fight in the coming weeks to give themselves a chance to retain their Championship status.
He said recently, “We’re as disappointed as everyone - from the start of the season to now. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not a liar, and it’s not been good enough.
“We haven’t won enough games, and we’re running out of them. We have to win as many as we can and give ourselves an opportunity to take it as long as we can.
“We don’t want to just go down without a fight, with a whimper, that wouldn’t be nice for me, I wouldn’t like that.
“If the worst comes to the worst, I don’t want to go down with a whimper. I want us to show an attitude, and a desire to get out of it.”
Darren Moore trusts him, and has had nothing but praise for his number one since coming in to take the reins from Neil Thompson – so if fit, you’d expect him to join the double centurion club at Hillsborough that includes fellow teammates Liam Palmer, Tom Lees, Barry Bannan and Adam Reach.
Only time will tell whether Westwood will manage it, but you get the feeling that his desire to see Wednesday survive outweighs any sort of personal milestones – especially given how much of his career he’s given to the Owls.
He said he’d be open to staying in Sheffield next season even if it meant signing for them in League One, but he’s determined to try and make sure that – whether he’s there or not – the Owls are playing Championship football again in 2021/22.
“I’d be devastated that I could potentially finish my Sheffield Wednesday career on a relegation,” he went on to say.
“In almost 20 years in the game I’ve never been relegated, and I’d be devastated for the club, for the fans, for all the people that work here…”
Well it’s now for never for Westwood and his teammates, they’ve got eight games to complete The Great Escape.
None of them are at Wembley, but there are eight cup finals to be played.