Sheffield Wednesday’s new beginning looks increasingly likely to be under a household name in Tony Pulis.
Dejphon Chansiri has given himself the November international break to source Garry Monk’s replacement and, as per reports from John Percy at the Telegraph, Pulis looks to be that man as he enters ‘advanced’ talks with those at Hillsborough.
Pulis’ last job in the Championship came with Middlesbrough, where he, coincidently, replaced Monk.
A play-off finish was achieved in 2017/18, with Boro then backing that up with seventh the following campaign. Key to his relative success at the Riverside Stadium was calling on experience right through the spine of his side: Darren Randolph, Daniel Ayala, George Friend, Mo Besic. The list goes on.
That bodes well for one player Pulis – should he get the job – will inherit in the Wednesday squad.
Keiren Westwood has found himself frozen out by Monk over the course of 2020, with the goalkeeper falling out of favour and forced to watch on as the calendar year proved to be a poor one for the Owls.
A move for the 36-year-old never materialised in the summer transfer window gone by, but Monk retained his faith with two relative rookies in terms of the goalkeeping department.
#swfc now in advanced talks with Tony Pulis over a deal to become the Championship club's new manager. Not 100% agreed yet, but negotiations progressing ahead of potentially appointing before the weekend. Contract likely to run to end of the season
— John Percy (@JPercyTelegraph) November 11, 2020
Cameron Dawson and Joe Wildsmith have been competing for the gloves, but their inability to even fully convince Monk led to the ex-Wednesday boss chopping and changing at every corner.
On average in the Championship this season, Dawson has conceded 1.03 goals from 3.19 shots faced per 90 (Wyscout) and, ultimately, had lost the faith of Monk and found Wildsmith starting ahead of him in the last three fixtures.
Wildsmith has enjoyed a decent cameo in the side. He’s conceded just a single goal against Wycombe and kept back-to-back clean sheets against AFC Bournemouth and Millwall. As per Wyscout, it’s 0.3 goals conceded in 1.79 shots faced per 90.
However, it’s maybe more beneficial to look at Wildsmith over a longer period of games. 2019/20 saw him face 3.34 shots per 90 and he recorded a whopping 1.72 goals conceded. That’s a worse output than what led to Dawson losing his place in the side last month.
Westwood’s last run in the side came during the first-half of the 2019/20 season. He was Lee Bullen’s first choice and then Monk kept him in the team during his opening months in-charge.
From 3.49 shots faced per 90, he conceded 1.01 goals. There were impressive performances along the way too. Westwood recorded a clean sheet against eventual Champions, Leeds United, at Hillsborough, pulling off a string of impressive saves to deny Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
At that point, Wednesday were in the upper echelons of the Championship table; flirting with the top-six and even looking a threat to the top-two, things were going well for Monk with Westwood in the side.
Despite a nice run of results on the back of Westwood coming out of the side, things soured for Wednesday and they fell rapidly to mid-table, never recovering.
The Owls’ last successful push for a place in the top-six came with Westwood in the side. Carlos Carvalhal’s regime achieved play-off football between 2015-2018, with the 21-cap Republic of Ireland international between the posts.
Westwood is the type of quality goalkeeper that gets you competing at the right end of the Championship table and his record from 2015 onwards as a Wednesday player is impressive. Per 90, he’s faced 3.57 shots on his goal in the Championship, conceding 0.86 goals on average.
The numbers tell you that Westwood is a safer pair of hands than Dawson and Wildsmith. So do the history books. With the Irishman in the side, Wednesday challenge for promotion, compete for the play-offs and, simply, win more games than they lose.
That’s the task lying at the door of Pulis if he takes the job in South Yorkshire; win more games than you lose and 23rd-paced Wednesday will retain their place in the Championship.
Pulis will inherit a project that’s no longer at rock bottom, which Monk deserves credit for. However, he will arrive and bring a clean slate for those that were not part of the previous project.
That’s music to the ears of Westwood, who will surely have a role in this new beginning.