Great goalkeepers have continued to grace Sheffield Wednesday Football Club throughout my 20-plus years of going to Hillsborough.
Even if those in other positions were not up to scratch, you could usually rely on the man furthest behind them to bail the team out.
And although Kevin Pressman (whose Owls career was tailing off at the time my affair with the club began), Lee Grant and Chris Kirkland each deserve honourable mentions, Keiren Westwood was for me the best at that.
But it is Wednesday’s rivals Leeds United who may soon be the beneficiaries, according to reports this morning (Daily Mirror).
Already vexed by the veteran’s omission under Jos Luhukay (Westwood’s appearance for Sheffield Wednesday’s Under-23s on Monday was his first of the season at any level), many Owls fans have been worked into a frenzy by Tuesday’s speculation.
So why then am I, a man who only yesterday shouted at a flight of stairs for spilling his over-filled cup of tea, so relaxed about the prospect?
Perhaps it’s because, be it in January or the summer, and regardless of who is managing Sheffield Wednesday at either point, I have already mentally prepared for Westwood’s departure.
After years of overspending landed the Owls in a transfer embargo, which their own chairman worryingly suggested may be just the tip of the iceberg, reducing the club’s wage bill is imperative going forward.
And with Westwood in the final year of his contract (one that is thought to make him one of Hillsborough’s most handsome earners), losing him before next season has long seemed inevitable.
It is for that reason, primarily, at least, that I believe Luhukay chose to promote the more youthful (and budget-friendly) duo of Cameron Dawson and Joe Wildsmith in place of the 34-year-old. Another reason, perhaps, for my indifference.
I maintain that, for all of Dawson’s recent flaws, that will ultimately prove the right call – one of scarce few in the Luhukay era.
Errors are just part of the territory for goalkeepers of the 23-year-old’s inexperience, and going through them is the only way, surely, that they can ever (to an extent) be eradicated.
If the plan is for Dawson, or indeed Wildsmith, to become Westwood’s long-term successor, mistakes must first have to happen, be it now or further down the line. And for how much longer could you have held back such talent?
I would suggest, too, that with a defence – and, it could be argued, a midfield – as porous as Sheffield Wednesday’s, the identity of the man between the sticks is (almost) irrelevant.
Heck, even Westwood, whose form at the start of last term was far from flawless, may have struggled to contend with the sheer number of shots faced by Dawson this campaign. Not that I think we will ever find out.
Although losing any player to Leeds would rankle (unless they’re after Almen Abdi as well), the future of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club should always take precedence.
And moving on Westwood, the employee (certainly not the player or person) is, for me, a step in the right direction.
But by all means ask for an update should he proceed to lift the title, whilst wearing Leeds colours, in May.