All roads lead to S6 for Owls ‘keeper

All roads lead to S6 for Owls ‘keeper

Stephen Bywater is your typical goalkeeper.

Typical in the sense that he’s as mad as a tub of proverbial mature tadpoles.

Since joining the Owls on loan in September his interviews on BBC Radio Sheffield have quickly become the thing of legend. Lest we forget this is the man who once constructed an ‘erotic artwork’ outside his Sutton-on-the-Hill home.

But there’s a seriousness to Bywater in the way he approaches his job, as I found out first-hand yesterday. His bitter disappointment at being left out in the cold at Derby is tempered by the tangible joy he has working with Andy Rhodes at Wednesday.

Ultimately, though, the 30-year-old stopper’s loan will come to an end on December 17th and he’ll be home for Christmas with the wife – something he’s already looking forward to.

“I enjoy every day with Rhodesy [Wednesday goalkeeping coach Andy Rhodes] and the other goalkeepers,” Bywater enthused. “It’s fresh and it’s fun and it’s a graft.

“For a goalkeeper it’s different to an outfield player. 80% of the time I’m with Andy Rhodes. It’s good for me. I’ve worked with him at Ipswich. He’s a key part to why I’ve enjoyed it here so much.

“You can’t switch off with him. He’s mentally very sharp; you have to be sharp as well. Never switch off. It’s the same with a game, you can’t switch off.”

It’s not all fun and games, though, and Bywater explained that some of the younger lads have sometimes struggled with Rhodes’ tough training methods.

“We regularly have a ‘Sick Tuesday’ where it’s tough because we might have the Wednesday off. It’s literally sick Tuesday for one of the young lads so that’s why we call it ‘Sick Tuesday’! It was graft and he was sick!

“He knows when to work me and he knows when to ease off and get me prepared for the weekend. He knows how individuals work.”

Bywater is now at his twelfth club after a 15-year career which started at Rochdale. He has played for some big clubs along the way but he believes Wednesday are right up there.

“It’s good to be at a massive club. Derby’s a big club. Sheffield Wednesday’s a massive club. I’ve been at West Ham which is a massive club as well. The fans expect you to go out there and give your all for the team and for them as well.”

“Obviously you know the history about Sheffield Wednesday but when you first come you don’t realise how big a club it is, with the support.

“When you’re actually here, it’s a massive club and it should be doing great things because it’s got the support and the facilities.”

Bywater was part of the Derby County side that won promotion to the Premier League back in 2006/7. As someone who has been part of a promotion-winning squad he believes this Wednesday side has got what it takes.

“Everyone feels close, the camaraderie’s good. It’s got to continue and hopefully it will. That’s the key thing that it continues throughout the whole year.

“It’s important that if you get a bad result somewhere that you still stick together, and you’re still running for each other. You’re not blaming anyone because you’re in it together. I think that will happen this year. I think everyone will stick together and it will be exciting.”

He poured scorn over the suggestion that league position in November has any bearing on what happens in May.

“When I was playing at West Ham, Crystal Palace were 19th at Christmas. You’d have written them right off but they actually went on a run and got promotion through the playoffs.

“It’s irrelevant where you are now. It’s just about concentrating on yourself and believing you’re going to go out there and do your best. The best will be good enough with the squad of players we’ve got.”

Bywater speaks as something of an outsider on the inside. He knows his future may not lie with Wednesday beyond December but he wants them to do well regardless. He doesn’t, though, hide his disappointment at being frozen out at Derby, a club he has been at for over five years.

“Whatever happens I want Sheffield Wednesday to do well, regardless. I want the club to be successful. I’m not a selfish person.

“As long as I’m healthy and fit and able to play a part in something then I want Sheffield Wednesday to do well.”

“When you don’t get a squad number at a club then you know you’ve not really got a future there. I’ll go back, I’ll be fit and available and if I get a squad number great, if not great.

“I still want Derby to do well because it’s a massive club; my little boy’s a big supporter of Derby.”

Bywater returns to Derby after the mouth-watering clash against Huddersfield, fully aware that it might be his last football until the New Year. Rather than dwell on it he prefers to remain philosophical. Like most family men, he knows exactly what Christmas is all about.

“My wife said I’m home for Christmas, what do I want? I said Marks & Spencers Christmas cake. That’s all that’s been said, Marks & Spencers Christmas cake or Marks & Spencers trifle – that’s it.”

Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @CraigSWFC

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