Safe Pairs Of Hands
Over the last few seasons, it`s been Keiren Westwood getting the praise from fans, neutrals, pundits and journalists. Rightly so too, Westwood has at times not only earned us points with some remarkable saves but helped us preserve points too. He fast became known as one of the best goalkeepers outside the top flight and in the eyes of many he was and still is deserving of the title as the best in the division.
Since Westwood joined the club he has been integral in helping the team in conceding fewer goals than ever before, with Wednesday equalling the record for the most clean sheets kept in the history of the club on a couple of occasions. The Irishman has kept 52 clean sheets in 144 games which is a pretty remarkable stat but while the focus has been on just how brilliant Westwood has been, Joe Wildsmith and Cameron Dawson have been pushing him all the way.
We`ve seen glimpses of Wildsmith and the potential he has in the past but I, like everybody else, probably felt he could do with a real run in the side to show what he was about. At times Joe has made a few errors but I put this down to being in and out of the team and since Westwood became unavailable over seven weeks ago, I think we`ve seen the future Wednesday number one, if he isn`t already right now.
At 22 years old, Wildsmith is the right age now to step up as the first choice keeper and credit must go to him for working hard and biding his time, even when Westwood has looked like an immovable object. What we`ve seen recently is faster reactions, a more commanding presence and a bigger voice from Joe and he certainly deserves this chance in the team. His record of 11 shut outs in 31 games for Wednesday isn`t too shabby either.
Cameron Dawson, who like Wildsmith is also 22, started to get a bit of a look into the first team picture at Wednesday last season, making four appearances. Again, with Westwood unavailable, it has allowed him to step up to act as Wildsmith`s deputy but to also start both of our last two FA Cup fixtures. Dawson kept a clean sheet in the replay against Carlisle and was desperately unlucky to not collect a second against Reading.
What we`ve seen of Dawson is very similar to what we saw of Wildsmith back in the 15/16 campaign. He`s being introduced to the first team picture in a similar way and it`s certainly proved successful so far for Joe so it should for Cameron too. Against Reading we saw saves from point blank range, quick reactions and bravery and with three clean sheets under his belt from six appearances, things certainly look bright for Dawson.
You could say the goalkeeping department is one that we don`t need to worry about at all. We have three keepers who we can really rely on, with one being experienced and the other two still improving and learning their trade. I always think it`s important to have a senior keeper around to help guide the younger ones and with Westwood playing so well over the last few years, it will have certainly helped the likes of Wildsmith and Dawson have a level of performance and ability to aspire to meet.
There also has to be a mention for goalkeeping coach Andy Rhodes who when I`ve asked around has a great reputation for his abilities to help develop goalkeepers. We`ve had some great keepers at Wednesday while Andy has been head of goalkeeping and he certainly has a played a big role in helping them develop further, whether they came to the club as seasoned pros or through the youth ranks.
I have also been told that we have another promising keeper at the club too in Dan Wallis. Dan is 18 and currently plays between the sticks in the U23s after progressing from the U18s. Last season Wallis was playing roles in both the U18s and U23s set ups, helping the former reach the playoffs and the latter win the PDL2 North and the National Championship. If history is anything to go by, Wallis could follow the same route as Wildsmith and Dawson into the first team picture and this would certainly be great to see.