Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Richard Her­cock FOOTBALL WRITER ■ richard.her­[email protected]­me­dia.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @RHer­cock­YPS­port

SH­EFFIELD WED­NES­DAY are ex­pected to ap­point Steve Bruce as their new man­ager this week.

The York­shire Post un­der­stands the for­mer Hull City man­ager is in ad­vanced talks to suc­ceed Jos Luhukay, who was sacked on Fri­day.

Steve Agnew, Bruce’s as­sis­tant, and coach Stephen Cle­mence were at Hills­bor­ough on Satur­day to watch the Owls beat Pre­ston North End 1-0.

If a deal can be fi­nalised Agnew and Cle­mence could join the club over the Christ­mas pe­riod with Bruce join­ing them next week af­ter re­turn­ing from a pre-planned fam­ily holiday.

Care­taker man­ager Lee Bullen – who saw Michael Hec­tor net the win­ner against Pre­ston – be­lieves Bruce’s record in the Cham­pi­onship would make him an ideal choice for Owls’ chair­man De­jphon Chan­siri.

Bruce, who also had spells in charge at Sh­effield United and Hud­der­s­field Town, has won pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League four times in spells with Hull and Birm­ing­ham City.

The 57-year-old was in charge of the Hull side that beat Wed­nes­day in the Cham­pi­onship play-off fi­nal in 2016.

“I think if you get the op­por­tu­nity to speak to some­one of the ex­pe­ri­ence of Steve Bruce at this level you don’t knock that op­por­tu­nity back,” said Bullen.

“At this level I think you can only point to Steve Bruce or our good friend at Cardiff (Neil Warnock) as the ones who just have an un­be­liev­able record of suc­cess.

“Steve will be hurt­ing with the way things went at As­ton Villa, ab­so­lutely, but if you get the op­por­tu­nity to speak to some­one like that – a Bri­tish coach that knows the Cham­pi­onship in­side out – then you don’t knock back the op­por­tu­nity to speak to him. Whether any­thing comes of it, I don’t know.

“Let’s see what the next 24 hours hold.

“They are re­ally good football peo­ple and I have al­ways had a re­ally good re­la­tion­ship with these guys.”

Hec­tor’s 62nd-minute header gave the Owls only their se­cond vic­tory in 11 games.

Asked how he thought Agnew and Cle­mence would as­sess the Owls, Bullen replied: “If they have watched the last five to 10 games, they’d prob­a­bly think, ‘Geez, we are jump­ing into the fry­ing pan’.

“But hope­fully they will look at that per­for­mance against Pre­ston and think, ‘ you know what, there is a good team there that has been play­ing well be­low par’.

“If they play like that with the dis­ci­pline they showed against Pre­ston for large spells of the game then it’s not a bad job to po­ten­tially be go­ing in for.”

Bullen was due to take train­ing to­day and to­mor­row ahead of the Box­ing Day trip to Mid­dles­brough fol­lowed by West Bromwich Al­bion away on Satur­day.

If the deal to bring in Bruce is fi­nalised his first game in charge could be against one of his for­mer clubs Birm­ing­ham at Hills­bor­ough on New Year’s Day.

As for Bullen’s own fu­ture, the 47-year-old Scot hopes to re­main at a club he has served with dis­tinc­tion since ar­riv­ing in Sh­effield in 2004, as both player and coach.

“Ev­ery­body knows what this club means to me,” said Bullen. “My dream would be to be part of some­thing for when this club even­tu­ally gets back to the Pre­mier League.

“Whether that’s be­ing in­volved with the Academy, or the first team, or any other role, that would be great.

“If you ask me, ‘ do I want to stay?’ Ab­so­lutely. But I am not silly – as soon as your ink is wet on the con­tract you’re a day closer to the sack.

“If he (Bruce) comes in, de­cides to change, then I will wish the lads all the best, take it on the chin, and I will be sat in the stands at Mid­dles­brough and West Brom, and bounc­ing, hope­fully.”

IT says plenty about Keiren West­wood that he hardly got his gloves dirty on Satur­day but helped solve Sh­effield Wed­nes­day’s leaky de­fence.

Rated as the best goal­keeper in the Cham­pi­onship be­fore Jos Luhukay ar­rived at Hills­boro­r­ough in Jan­uary, the Dutch­man stub­bornly re­fused to play West­wood this sea­son.

Not even hav­ing the worst de­fence in the Cham­pi­onship – hav­ing con­ceded 40 goals in 22 games, and just two clean sheets – tempted Luhukay to take rookie Cameron Daw­son out of the fir­ing line.

But 24 hours af­ter Luhukay’s exit, care­taker man­ager Lee Bullen picked West­wood for his first se­nior game of football since De- cem­ber 9 last year. Come the fi­nal whis­tle on Satur­day, there was a col­lec­tive sigh of “I told you so” from the 22,000 Owls sup­port­ers in­side the sta­dium.

Michael Hec­tor’s se­cond-half header earned Wed­nes­day a wel­come three points, but it was the re­turn of West­wood – and the sight of out-of-favour mid­field duo Sam Hutchin­son and Ge­orge Boyd mak­ing their first out­ings since Au­gust – which lifted the dark clouds which have gath­ered over Hills­bor­ough this sea­son.

It was like West­wood – the re­turn­ing hero greeted be­fore kick­off by huge cheers and ap­plause from home fans – had never been away, boss­ing the de­fend­ers in front of him, prowl­ing around his penalty area.

West­wood’s or­gan­i­sa­tion seemed to in­stil new con­fi­dence into Wed­nes­day’s hes­i­tant de­fence, mean­ing the goal­keeper had lit­tle to do all game.

When 10-man Pre­ston did put late pres­sure on Wed­nes­day’s goal, deep into stop­page time, out roared West­wood through a hoarde of bodies with a thump­ing punch that Sh­effield boxer Kell Brook would have been proud of.

“It was a per­fect goal­keep­ing per­for­mance be­cause he had lit­tle to do,” said Bullen.

“Give credit to the de­fend­ers in front, it’s not of­ten we have been able to say that about the Sh­effield Wed­nes­day de­fen­sive unit this year.

“For me, it was that punch right at the end with that long throw com­ing in that summed it up.

“It was like ‘I’m not los­ing a goal to­day’. What a fan­tas­tic punch. That epit­o­mised his per­for­mance be­cause he didn’t have a great deal to do.

“What you get with Keiren is or­gan­i­sa­tion of the back four. Credit to the lad for com­ing in af­ter not play­ing in 12 months,” added Bullen, who had vis­ited Daw­son at his fam­ily home on Fri­day evening to in­form the rookie that West­wood would be start­ing.

The goal­keeper – out of con­tract in the sum­mer and linked with a Jan­uary move – ad­mit­ted he feared his Owls ca­reer was over.

West­wood said: “What a sur- real 24 hours. I hon­estly thought I would never pull on the SWFC jer­sey again.

“What­ever hap­pens in the next month or over the course of the sea­son, I will never for­get the re­cep­tion I re­ceived to­day by the fans.

“If I could per­son­ally thank ev­ery­body in­di­vid­u­ally I would. Thanks to Bully for throw­ing me in, it wasn’t a pretty game, but we de­served the vic­tory. I thought the lads in front of me were mag­nif­i­cent.”

The de­ci­sion to re­call West­wood was to­tally vin­di­cated, and just like the re­turn of en­trance mu­sic Water­front by Sim­ple Minds, helped bring back the miss­ing feel­good fac­tor in­side Hills­bor­ough af­ter a mis­er­able run of just one win in 10 games.

There was lit­tle be­tween the teams un­til Pre­ston mid­fielder Ben Pear­son was shown a straight red card, af­ter catch­ing Marco Ma­tias with a high boot.

“I thought it was a rash chal­lenge,” said Bullen.

“I think the ball was there to be won, but the lad (Pear­son) was a bit late.”

Wed­nes­day scented a chance, and twice Adam Reach de­liv­ered su­per crosses which came clos­ing to break­ing the stale­mate.

First, he picked out Steven Fletcher, only for the striker’s header to be tipped wide by De­clan Rudd.

But the North End goal­keeper was help­less when striker Lu­cas Joao pow­ered in a header, from Reach’s right-wing cross, only for the ball to re­bound to safety off the post.

Rudd was hav­ing an ex­cel­lent game and pro­duced a stun­ning one-handed save to thwart Ma­tias from close-range – fol­low­ing Fletcher’s back-post header – to di­vert the ball for a cor­ner.

But the goal­keeper was fi­nally beaten when Josh Onomah’s cross was headed in by Michael Hec­tor – the two loan play­ers com­bin­ing to great suc­cess.

“I’m buzzing to get my first goal for the club, and, hope­fully, now we can kick on and get some pos­i­tive re­sults this Christ­mas,” said on-loan Chelsea de­fender Hec­tor.

“It was al­ways go­ing to be a phys­i­cal game, but we han­dled it well.

“We knew we had to be pa­tient and the chance would come. Their keeper had a great game and on an­other day we might have scored three or four.”

That they did not was down to Rudd, who also palmed away Fletcher’s long-range drive.

De­spite a few ner­vous mo­ments af­ter con­ced­ing sev­eral late free-kicks, the Owls held out for a wel­come three points.

I hon­estly thought I would never pull on the SWFC jer­sey again.

Keiren West­wood, af­ter his first game for Sh­effield Wed­nes­day in over a year.

LEE BULLEN: Took charge as the Owls got back to win­ning ways against Pre­ston North End.


I’M BACK: Sh­effield Wed­nes­day goal­keeper Keiren West­wood cel­e­brates his re­turn to first-team ac­tion against Pre­ston at Hills­bor­ough.

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