Sheffield Wednesday: Stephen Bywater keeps Chris Kirkland on his toes

Heights reached: Chris Kirkland has shown consistent form
Heights reached: Chris Kirkland has shown consistent form
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SOME people may regard Chris Kirkland as an automatic choice for Sheffield Wednesday, writes Paul Thompson.

But the keeper does not see it that way.

He regards his friendly rivalry with Stephen Bywater as something that keeps him on his toes.

Kirkland thinks that if he suffers a dip in standards then he will swiftly lose his place despite his experience.

“Stephen is experienced as well,” said the 31-year-old ex-England keeper. “We are of similar age. We were both in the Under 21s years ago, so we know each other well.

“We have to push each other on, which we do. We have a great relationship, with Nicky (Weaver) and Arron (Jameson) as well.

“If you’re not playing well, you won’t be in the team. It doesn’t matter who are, what name you have - it’s what’s best for the team.”

Bywater, 31, has spoken in similar terms about the friendship and competition for places between the keepers, while Dave Jones, who also has Adam Davies in the squad, has told how pleased he is with the goalkeeping department.

Kirkland has produced consistent form this season but is reluctant to accept personal praise: “I don’t think anybody over the first part of the season can say they did well, because of the situation we were in. We were conceding goals left, right and centre. We were getting beaten. We were taking criticism and rightly so.

“But the second part, we realise we have to stand together, and that’s what we’ve tried to do. We’ve been more together. In the last seven games we’ve proved we can do it.”

Weaver could leave before the transfer deadline a week tomorrow, as he attempts to find first=team football.

The Owls face his old club Charlton, on Saturday, as the Addicks look for a fourth successive league win - though they also suffered a home exit from the FA Cup.

They have beaten Watford 4-3 away, Blackpool 2-1 at home and Blackburn 2-1 away. The cup-tie was lost 1-0 to Huddersfield.

Manager Chris Powell says: “Away from home we have done very well. We’ve had a good January so far, and now have a home game against Sheffield Wednesday to look forward to.”

Notts County have rejected a bid by Charlton for midfield player Alan Judge: the London club were prepared to let striker Bradley Wright-Phillips and winger Danny Green go in part exchange.

But County see the 24-year-old as being important to their League One promotion campaign and he says he is happy to assist that. He scored County’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United.

An under 21 game between Wednesday and Huddersfield at Middlewood yesterday was called off because the pitch was unplayable.

Did you know? When Wednesday last won at Charlton, Nicky Weaver was in the home side: the score was 2-1, on September 27, 2008, and the Owls goals came from Wade Small and Marcus Tudgay.