Reda Johnson, the Sheffield Wednesday captain, has leapt to Chris Kirkland’s defence after doubts surfaced about the goalkeeper’s status as Hillsborough’s undisputed number one, writes James Shield.
Manager Dave Jones reportedly views Jack Butland as a potential target during the emergency window after the England international hinted he could be tempted to leave Stoke City on loan.
Jones’s assertion that Kirkland “needs to be pushed,” combined with Butland’s desire for first team football, has been interpreted by some as a coded warning that the 32-year-old-old’s place in Wednesday’s starting eleven could be under threat.
But Johnson said: “I feel like I don’t really need to talk about him. Everyone knows he is a very good keeper.
“I’m a defender, I’m very pleased to play with a ‘keeper like that.
“I feel confident to have him as my ‘keeper. He’s very professional.
“Every morning he’s the first at the training ground. It’s a pleasure to play with him.”
“Chrissy needs to be pushed,” Jones, who has predicted Kirkland could return to the international fold, said earlier this term. “We need that competition and it’s healthy.
“He knows I’m looking around. If that keeps him on his toes, all well and good.”
Meanwhile, Wednesday will encounter a Birmingham City team playing some of its best football in recent seasons when they visit St Andrews this weekend, according to Jones’ opposite number Lee Clark.
City, who lost 3-0 at Burnley last night, were narrowly beaten by Championship leaders Queens Park Rangers four days ago and Clark said: “I’m frustrated for the players. They didn’t deserve that at all.
“I thought we deserved to be 2-0 up at half-time and I’m delighted with the performance of every player. I thought they were terrific from start to finish and they created some excellent chances.”
Paul Robinson, the City captain, missed the trip to Turf Moor after being handed a one match suspension but is expected to feature against Wednesday.
Former Red Star Belgrade and Serbia centre-forward Nikola Zigic could also be selected after impressing for the reserves.