It is quite understandable why Joe Wildsmith looks up to Stoke City number one Jack Butland.
England international Butland showed a nice, classy touch after helping the Potters reach their first League Cup semi-final since 1972 at the expense of the Owls on Tuesday.
Before heading down the tunnel to go back to the home dressing room, Butland acknowledged the 4,600 plus Wednesdayites who travelled to the Britannia Stadium, clapping them out of the ground.
It is not something every footballer does, but Butland is no ordinary player.
The 22-year-old, who started his career at Birmingham City, is in imperious form, recording six clean sheets in 16 appearances this campaign. Liverpool and Everton have been linked with a January move for Butland, although boss Mark Hughes insists he will be staying put. Welshman Hughes claims the 6ft 5ins shot-stopper is undervalued at £20m.
Butland, sgned by the Potters in January 2013 for a fee rising to £3.5m, is even pressing Joe Hart hard for an England starting spot.
Wildsmith told The Star: “Jack is a big inspiration for me. He has put the work in and is doing well.
“He got his move, is playing at the highest level and is now in the England squad.
“It shows what can happen and that’s what I want to strive for and maybe be in his shoes one day.”
Carlos Carvalhal’s troops failed to seriously test Butland in their 2-0 loss to the Premier League side.
“A couple of the lads looked tired,” conceded Wildsmith. “It has been a very hectic schedule for them over the last few weeks and it caught up with some of them.
“We finished the game without any centre-backs and Modou Sougou having to go to right-back. It was tough but the lads did well in the circumstances.
“Stoke have got big lads and rough you up. The crowd really get behind them and we came off second best in some of the challenges. Their physicality got the better of us. It was just one game too many.
“We did alright but it wasn’t quite there in the final third. We kept going until the end.
“We can be proud of the run. It has been ages since we have had a good cup run and the fans have really got behind it.
“We’ve got memories to keep forever because we have upset a lot of odds to get to where we did.
“Coming up each round against strong teams from the Premier League, it was likely that it would come to an end but we wanted to ride it for as long as possible.”
It has been a memorable season for lifelong Owls fan Wildsmith, who has forced his way into the England Under-21 set-up.
He said: “It has been a great experience to be in the England Under-21 squads and good to test myself against some very good players.
“There are a lot of Premier League players involved so it just shows you the level you need to get to. Hopefully I can keep on progressing and maybe get a couple of games for them over the next few years.”
Wildsmith’s ability and temperament has impressed Wednesday’s hierarchy, leading to him becoming Keiren Westwood’s deputy.
Sam Hutchinson, Wildsmith’s teammate, said: “Joe has done brilliantly since I’ve been here. I think he has all the attributes to go wherever he wants to. He just has to keep his feet on the ground and keep going.”
Defensiver midfielder Hutchinson is urging Wildsmith to carry on improving.
“I think Joe could probably be more confident in his own ability, if I am honest,” he said. “He’s a great lad but a little bit shy.
“Joe has done fantastic and it’s great that we have also got Lewis Price and Cameron Dawson pushing Westy.”
Having leapfrogged Price in the pecking order, academy graduate Wildsmith has featured seven times, making six starts during the 2015/16 campaign. But the talented 19-year-old is refusing to get carried away.
Wildsmith said: “A lot has happened in the last four months. I try not to think too hard about it and take everything with a pinch of salt.
“At the moment, everything is going well for me but I don’t get ahead of myself. I have to keep my feet on the ground. I know I still have to work hard to get to where I want to be.”