New father Liam Palmer has paid tribute to Sheffield Wednesday’s “incredible” supporters following the club’s family community fun day.
Around 15,000 people attended Owls in the Park, one of Sheffield’s fastest growing outdoor events, at Hillsborough Park yesterday.
Wednesdayites met new signings Keiren Westwood and Sam Hutchinson. All the of the Owls squad signed autographs and posed for pictures. The annual event also featured live music, a fun fair, animal displays, catering, a teddy bear parachute jump, a World Cup football tournament and a variety of food and craft stalls.
Liam, the club’s reigning player of the year, said: “To get 15,000 people turning up to a fun day is unbelievable. It just shows you the incredible support we’ve got here.”
Owls head coach Stuart Gray echoed his sentiments, saying: “It was the first time I had been to the event. The turnout was phenomenal.
“It illustrates how big this club is. There are not many football clubs in the Football League or even in the Premier League who could get that amount of supporters. It’s a fantastic occasion and it’s great that the players can pay something back to the fans.
It’s been a hectic couple of days for Liam. His partner, Beth, gave birth to their first child, Aubrey, at 7.49pm on Friday night. He weighed seven pounds and 12 ounces.
“I am so proud,” he said. “I just keep staring at him [Aubrey], seeing what he’s up to and making sure he’s fine.
“It was an indescribable feeling picking Aubrey up for the first time. I just wanted to be so gentle with him.
“Being a father is an unbelievable feeling. When you come here (Owls in the Park) and see all these fans, that’s what I want my son to be experiencing when he grows up.
“It’s a special time for Beth and I. It’s been really good.”
Liam capped off a memorable weekend by playing in the first half of Wednesday’s opening pre-season friendly against York on Saturday.
He admitted: “I didn’t want to leave my son. I’d only just met him and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with him but, when you’ve got work, it needs to be done.
“Seeing nearly 2,000 fans turn up at York helped get me through it. They kept me going.
“After the game, I went straight back to hospital to be with my son and Beth. It’s been a bit of a journey but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s been brilliant.
“It’s been an amazing, emotional rollercoaster.”
Liam watched the World Cup third-place play-off match between Brazil and the Netherlands with Aubrey in hospital on Saturday night.
Liam joked: “He was more bothered about sleeping than watching the game!”
So why the name Aubrey?
“We looked around for baby names and that one stood out,” said Liam. “Beth and I just liked it.
“It’s a little unusual and something that not too many people have got. It’s one that we admired and caught our eye.”
The Worksop-born player has thanked fans for their support on social media.
“I really appreciate all the nice messages I’ve received on Twitter,” he said. “It means a lot that the fans came up to me at Owls in the Park to pass on their congratulations.”
With right-back Lewis Buxton facing two weeks on the sidelines after picking up a knee injury in training last week, Liam hopes to impress in Wednesday’s warm-up matches.
He said: “It’s unfortunate Lewis [Buxton] has got injured. But I can play in a number of positions. I’m not really too bothered about holding down a certain position. As long as I’m playing and playing well, that’s all that matters.”
“I want to eclipse last season,” said Liam. “I know it will be difficult but if I can get anywhere near that that would be great. I want to kick on again.”
Liam said he is happy to be back in training following the summer break.
“You get bored after two weeks of sitting at home and doing nothing,” he said. “You just want to get back into it. It’s great to be back and seeing the lads again.
“There is a real buzz around the place. The fans are really optimistic and so are the players. It’s good that the takeover is happening. Hopefully we can push on next season.”