One way or another, it seems on the cards that Sheffield Wednesday will go into battle next season with two proven goalkeepers on their books.
Keiren Westwood earned rave reviews following a series of impressive displays in his first season at Hillsborough. His performance levels rarely dipped and the Republic of Ireland international was deservedly included in the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
Westwood is currently the Owls’ number one, but head coach Stuart Gray credits back-up shot-stopper Chris Kirkland for bringing the best out of him. Kirkland barely put a foot wrong whenever Westwood missed out through injury or was rested.
Four days after the 2014/15 campaign ended, Wednesday offered Kirkland a new contract as Gray believes having competition for places is imperative if a team is going to be successful. They clearly feel Kirkland is the right person to keep Westwood on his toes.
There were big doubts over Kirkland’s future when it emerged that the Owls had inquired about highly-rated Shrews player Jayson Leutwiler earlier this month. Swiss ace Leutwiler, who started his career at Basel, starred as the Shrews gained promotion to League One, breaking a 47-year club record by registering 23 clean sheets.
But it is believed Wednesday have cooled their interest in the 26-year-old since Shrewsbury chief executive Matt Williams issued a hands-off-warning to clubs chasing him.
With the Owls monitoring Leutwiler’s situation, sources close to Kirkland say the experienced shot-stopper considered moving on. Wigan Athletic, one of Kirkland’s old clubs, are thought to have contacted his representatives regarding a possible return. Following a couple of weeks of uncertainty surrounding Kirkland’s position, The Star understands he is keen to stay and fight for a starting spot at Wednesday.
Ultimately, Wigan succeeded in strengthening their goalkeeping department yesterday by capturing ex-Owls trainee Richard O’Donnell on a free transfer from Walsall. The 26-year-old has agreed a three-year deal and will join them in July.