Sheffield Wednesday: Teen starlet hopes to emulate Owls great

Joe Wildsmith
Joe Wildsmith

Hot prospect Joe Wildsmith has revealed he wants to replicate Ron Springett’s achievements at Hillsborough and become an Owls legend.

Tributes have poured in for ex-England international Springett, who passed away, aged 80, following a short illness on Sunday.

Springett made 384 senior appearances for Wednesday and was a key component of the side who reached the 1966 FA Cup final.

Young Owls shot-stopper Wildsmith, who will start tonight’s Championship tussle against Bolton Wanderers as Keiren Westwood has yet to recover from a side strain, said: “It’s tragic news for the club.

“My thoughts go out to his family. He [Springett] played over 300 games for the Owls. He played for England and had a great career.

“He is a Sheffield Wednesday legend and, as a goalkeeper, you’ve got to look up to that and see what he achieved. Hopefully my career is as good as his.”

Teenager Wildsmith has spoken of his desire to spend the rest of his career with his boyhood club.

“There are not many footballers who will stay at the same club for their whole career,” he said. “If it does happen, I think it is very good.

“It is something I would like to do. If I could stay at this club for the rest of my life, it would be brilliant.”

Nonetheless, the talented goalkeeper recognises it is becoming increasingly rare for footballers to represent just one club.

Ron Springett

Ron Springett

He said: “With the amount of money that has come into the modern game, it just happens that players move clubs now. If opportunities come up, I don’t think they (players) can turn them down these days.”

The Wildsmith clan are very much divided regarding their football allegiances.

Wildsmith quipped: “My dad is a Wednesday fan and my mum supports Sheffield United but she will come and watch me; she just wears a red scarf!”

Wildsmith, who spent a month on loan at Barnsley last season, said he enjoyed making his first Championship start at Burnley on Saturday, although he conceded the result took some of the gloss off his third appearance of the campaign.

Ron Springett

Ron Springett

“It was a bit surreal walking out of the tunnel and seeing all the fans there,” he admitted. “The atmosphere was good and it was great seeing my family in the stands.

“It was overwhelming for a second but as soon as the game started, I got my head down and blocked it all out and played my own game and I enjoyed it. I just want more of that feeling.”

Wildsmith has thanked Wednesday’s senior stars for helping him adapt quickly to the rigours of second-tier football.

“Keiren and Lewis have been brilliant with me,” he said. “They have helped keep my feet on the ground and make sure that I don’t get too up or down. They have kept me right and passed on tips and just said it’s another game.

“Andy Rhodes (goalkeeping coach) was reassuring me on Saturday and making sure I was ready for the game.

“Tom [Lees] and Glenn [Loovens] have also been great with me. They talked me through the game and made sure I was alright.

“They said they have trust in me so don’t treat it as anything different to playing on the training pitch. They gave me a lot of confidence going into the game.”

A series of injuries to Westwood and Lewis Price have handed Wildsmith the opportunity to stake his claim.

“I didn’t expect to be starting,” he acknowledged. “I saw Lewis Price come in over the summer and Keiren Westwood did very well last year.

“I didn’t really see my chances coming in the first-team at all. But certain injuries have given me a chance and hopefully I’ve done enough to take that now.”

In recent weeks, Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal has praised Wildsmith’s contribution, claiming the academy starlet possesses all the attributes to reach the highest level.

Wildsmith said: “It is very nice to hear the gaffer saying nice things about me. It makes my family proud.

“He [Carvalhal] says he doesn’t lose any sleep at night knowing that I’m playing so that really gives me belief that he has confidence in me.

“I just want to repay the faith he has put in me by playing well. That is my only aim so hopefully I can please him some more.”

A clean sheet against Bolton would be a good start.

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