Talented goalkeeper Keiren Westwood says Owls boss Stuart Gray deserves huge credit for the “remarkable” strides the club have made this season.
The Owls lie in 10th position, having suffered just six defeats in 24 Championship matches during the 2014/15 campaign, and go to out-of-form Nottingham Forest on Saturday chasing a third straight league win.
Westwood, who missed Sunday’s heartbreaking FA Cup third round defeat at Manchester City because of a calf strain, told The Star: “I wasn’t here last year but when you compare it to this season, I think the progress has been remarkable.
“The team were in the bottom three at Christmas last year. Stuart [Gray] came in after 16 games when they had only won one of the first 16 games. The team finished the season well last year and are doing great this time around.”
Having comfortably steered the club clear of relegation trouble, Gray and his coaching staff focused in the summer on tightening up their leaky backline. It took Wednesday until mid-December to record a clean sheet last term.
Gray revamped his defence, bringing in Westwood and Tom Lees and opting to retain the services of Glenn Loovens. Westwood and Lees have played an integral part in Wednesday’s defensive improvement.
The Owls boast one of the meanest defences in the division, recording 11 shut-outs in total, and Westwood claims continuity in selection has aided their cause.
“We’ve been quite lucky with injuries,” he said. “Touch wood, that nothing changes.
“It’s great we have kept so many clean sheets but as long as we win games, nobody really cares whether it’s 4-3 or 1-0. It’s a real team effort defensively. We all work real hard for each other. We are grafting and putting our bodies on the line.!
Westwood, who is reportedly attracting the interest of Liverpool, has starred in between the sticks and was watched by Republic of Ireland assistant boss Roy Keane in their victory at Wigan Athletic last week.
The 30-year-old, formerly of Carlisle United, Coventry City and Sunderland, insists he is loving life at Hillsborough and is enjoying playing regular first-team football.
“I’m really happy to be here; Sheffield Wednesday is a fantastic club to play for,” said Westwood.
Wednesday, meanwhile, are offering season ticket holders a special deal for their home clash with Bolton a week on Saturday. They can bring an adult friend or concessions to the match for £10 and £5 respectively. The offer is only available if purchased before the day of the game. For more information, ring 0871 900 1867