Sheffield Wednesday: Ice-cool Pudil looks to future

Daniel Pudil
Daniel Pudil
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Football is not the only sport Daniel Pudil loves.

“I have always been a big fan of ice hockey,” the Czech Republic international told The Star. “It is as big in my country as football is over here.

“Ice hockey is a little bit faster than football. You only have to wait two or three minutes for something to happen in ice hockey. Things can change in a split second.”

When Pudil is not in action for Wednesday or spending time with his family, he likes to go and cheer on the Sheffield Steeldogs and Sheffield Steelers.

He said: “Most of the time Steeldogs play at home on Saturday night so I get to see them a lot. I am really good friends with quite a few of their players and sorted them out with tickets for our games.

“Steelers I’ve seen a couple of times but quite often their home games clash with our away games.”

One of Pudil’s close friends is on Steelers’ books.

“I have known their goaltender Marek Pinc for seven years,” said Pudil. “He is a great guy.

“It was a really nice surprise when Marek phoned me last year to say he was joining them.

“His family were in England for Christmas so we spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day together. Like me, he has two children so we socialise quite a bit together.”

He readily admits he is not a natural skater.

“I have practiced a few times with the Steeldogs on the ice,” he said. “I’m not bad. I can shoot and pass the puck but I think if I played, they would kill me.”

Watching ice hockey live or on television helps Pudil take his mind off the hustle and bustle of second-tier football.

He said: “When I am not with my family or playing, it is what I like to do to switch off. Sometimes you have to switch off as the Championship is quite hard and intense.

“There are a lot of games so it is nice to relax and do something different. That’s why I am really happy to have a few friends with the Steeldogs and the Steelers who I can go the cinema or park with.”

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Life has been pretty stressful for Pudil ever since he moved to Hillsborough last August. He has overseen a family move north, helped his son Danny settle in to a new school and become a dad for the second time.

His partner gave birth to their second child Ella just hours before he opened his account in Wednesday’s win over Preston North End three months ago.

Pudil is loving life with the Owls and has expressed his desire to join the club on a permanent basis. He is due to return to parent club Watford at the end of the campaign.

“We have moved over here from London and we have found a school for my child,” he said. “My daughter was born here.

“My family and I have found friends and everyone in Sheffield is really friendly. The city is great and that’s why I want to stay for the next couple of years.

“We don’t want to move anywhere else.”

In-form Wednesday face Fulham in the third round of the FA Cup tomorrow looking to complete a hat-trick of wins over the London outfit this season. Carlos Carvalhal’s men kicked 2016 off in fine style by defeating the Cottagers in their own backyard last weekend.

Pudil, who has netted in victories over Preston and Wolverhampton Wanderers, said: “We have to be wary of them.

“They will be looking for revenge as we have beaten them twice this season.

“We know how they play. They kept the ball well in their own half last week but didn’t have many chances whereas we had two or three really big chances in the second half.

“They will come here to try and beat us but we are in really good form at Hillsborough and hopefully we will go into the next round.”

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What the Owls can also take big encouragement from is their performances in the Capital One Cup. En route to reaching the quarter-finals of the competition, Carvalhal’s troops dumped out Newcastle United and Premier League giants Arsenal.

While securing a top-six spot remains their number one priority, Pudil is convinced another good cup run will only benefit them in the long term.

“I believe the cup can help us with our league form,” said Pudil. “We did very well in the Capital One Cup and that had a knock on effect in our results in the Championship so we will try to repeat that run again.”

There is a strong possibility Carvalhal will shuffle his pack against Fulham. Although he has number of injury concerns, Carvalhal could give run-outs to fringe players Rhoys Wiggins, Jose Semedo and Modou Sougou.

“We have a big squad and everyone wants to play,” said Pudil. “It is very important that you have more than 11 or 12 players who can play.

“If you have 20-25 then you know if you have injuries or suspensions, you can bring somebody in and they will play well. In this league, you need a big squad or you are struggling as you can’t play the same eleven.

“That’s what made the difference for Watford because it is so tight in the league.”

Under Carvalhal, Wednesday boast a superb home record, tasing defeat just once all season. Their only loss came against Middlesbrough at the end of August.

They are currently on a 10-match unbeaten run at Hillsborough, wowing supporters with their aggressive, attacking style of football.

It is in stark contrast to last season when the Owls found goals and positive results hard to come by on home soil.

Four of their next five fixtures are at home and Pudil, who has featured 21 times during the 2015/16 campaign, believes the fans have played a crucial role in them turning Hillsborough into a place that opponents fear coming to.

“The supporters lift us even when we are losing,” he said. “They always try to help us. We always know that which is why we try to give everything for them.

“We want to make them happy and proud. When we play at home, we look like scoring a lot of goals and know the supporters will be right behind us.

“I think that’s why we are winning most of our home games so hopefully we can keep it going.”

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