Keiren Westwood on Sheffield Wednesday part one: Turning down Sami Hyypia, the Dejphon Chansiri revolution and Wembley woe

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This week former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood sat down with The Star’s Alex Miller for a no-holds-barred chat on his seven-year Owls journey.

The 75-minute talk covered everything from his first days at S6, the Dejphon Chansiri revolution, Wembley heartbreak, being ‘frozen out’ by two different managers and the painful blow of relegation in his final game.

In part one of our serialised transcript of the interview, Westwood covers everything from his arrival at S6 to back-to-back play-off blows.

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How did your move to Wednesday come about back in 2014?

I was going to sign for Brighton. I was on holiday in Greece and got a call from Andy Rhodes, who was the goalkeeper coach at the time.

I’d not yet met with Brighton but they fancied me and I had planned to go down to meet Sami Hyypia who was their manager.

Brighton’s stadium, the training ground, the club, they’d spent an absolute fortune.

But it’s not about airs and graces for me, things don’t have to be state of the art, it can be the local park. As soon as I spoke to Stuart Gray and Rhodesy it was done and I knew it was the right decision.

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Former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood spoke to The Star about his early years with the club.Former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood spoke to The Star about his early years with the club.
Former Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood spoke to The Star about his early years with the club.

I nearly came the season before on loan. Rhodesy rang me when I was up at Sunderland.

He asked if I fancied it and I was bang up for it, but Martin O’Neill wouldn’t let me go.

I was on the bench, so it makes sense. You an only lose somebody if you have a replacement, so I understood that.

So why Sheffield Wednesday?

We all know how big Sheffield Wednesday is, there’s no hiding it.

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We don’t say it to curry favour with the fans, anybody who doesn’t play for the club knows how big Sheffield Wednesday is.

About three or four days after I’d signed I was about to go on a pre-season tour to Eastern Europe and we did Owls in the Park. There were over 20,000 people there.

I was like ‘oh my days this is not messing about’.

What was that first season like? You got into the Championship team of the year..

Stuart was great, a fantastic coach and I’ve got so much time for him. Listen, we weren’t the most fantastic team but we worked so hard for him and for each other.

Our pitch was something else. It was shocking! We’d rather play away because it was so bad.

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One day Hutch did one of his slide tackles and had a massive chunk of his leg missing where he’d hit a stone, just below his knee. He’s got the scar now.

There were no airs or graces about anything, we were just a bunch of proper down to earth lads who grafted for each other and played to our strengths.

We finished midtable, we had a tiny squad but had a really good team spirit.

What was Chansiri’s arrival like as a player?

It was a huge positive. You can’t look at anything differently when it’s like that; new owners, new investment, new ideas and a change in direction.

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Mr Chansiri was clear from the getgo that promotion was the aim. It excited me.

To be with a team that wanted to be challenging was where I wanted to be. I wanted to give teams a good hiding.

..and what about Carlos Carvalhal’s arrival?

As soon as he came in it was about getting on with what the chairman wanted us to do, which was get promoted.

I really liked Carlos. He had some really good ideas. Tactically he was really on it, the team shape we did was great and I have a lot of time for Carlos as a person.

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Loovens was a really good captain, he was great. Ross Wallace was great, I say next to him at the training ground, Hoops, Hutch, Palms, Keiran Lee.

We had a really good bunch. I don’t recalling thinking anyone was ‘not for me’.

What do you remember of the Brighton semi-finals?

It was unbelievable. The pitch was shaking. They is still my favourite two games ever, those semi-finals.

The home leg, the atmosphere I had so many friends and family there, then the lights came out, pitch black. The place was rocking, electric. Your body is just buzzed and when Kieran Lee scored the second, it was amazing.

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We went down to Brighton and got battered for half an hour. Then Ross scored and it killed them.

They were a good side. They had got 20-odd more points than us. We just went into it as pure underdogs like ‘let’s have it’, that’s how we looked at it.

Sorry to open old wounds, but what about defeat at Wembley?

It still hurts now, thinking about it. The game came on Sky the other day and I had to turn it off.

It was so disappointing. All the boys had given so much that season, everything. And if I look back now as a pundit, I’d say Hull definitely deserved it.

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Afterwards it was silent, really silent. There’s nothing to say at that point. Just gutted.

You give everything for 49 games plus cup games and you’re sat in the dressing room with lads you’ve shared all those good moments with and there’s this bad moment. Ultimately you’re going back to pre-season in three weeks time and you have to go again.

Wednesday changed their style of play for that second playoff season..

The manager makes choices and ultimately it was a better season than the year before. We got beat in the semis, but we finished fourth, two places better off, with more points. We can’t sit here and criticise I don’t think.

The nil-nil at Huddersfield was a decent result and I thought that was our year and that we were going up.

Pens are a lottery at the end of the day. I really did feel that was our year.

Part two of The Star’s interview with Keiren Westwood will be published in the next few days.