Sometimes football bosses are forced to make tough selection decisions, just ask Stuart Gray.
The Sheffield Wednesday head coach left-out Chris Kirkland in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough, despite the goalkeeper’s assured showing at Millwall last week.
Kirkland’s astute handling and shot-stopping ability helped the Owls get back to winning ways in the capital but Gray decided to restore Keiren Westwood to his starting line-up against Boro.
Republic of Ireland international Westwood vindicated Gray’s call by ensuring Wednesday recorded their 17th clean sheet of the season in all competitions. The Owls boast the second meanest defence in the division and Westwood has played a key role in their success.
When asked to explain why Westwood was preferred to Kirkland, Gray told The Star: “You’ve got to make tough decisions.
“It was disappointing to let Chris know he wasn’t playing and Chris was disappointed.
“It just shows competition is healthy and that I’ve got two quality keepers.”
Westwood is poised to be Owls’ last line of defence tonight as they prepare to take on mid-table Blackburn Rovers. Gray described it as “very satisfying” to see his side keep a clean sheet, score two goals and pick up maximum points versus automatic promotion contenders and has urged his players to replicate that performance versus a Blackburn side who travel to Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Sunday.
Wednesday will fancy their chances of completing the double over Rovers. Gary Bowyer’s men have failed to win on the road in the Championship since October 25. Saturday’s goalless draw at Bournemouth extended their winless sequence to 10 matches away from Ewood Park. Rovers last success on their travels came at Charlton in the cup two months ago.