Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland fights to keep place

Chris Kirkland made two great saves at Bolton

Chris Kirkland made two great saves at Bolton

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Chris Kirkland has welcomed the rivalry sparked by new loan signing Damian Martinez.

The Owls keeper kept his place despite Martinez’s arrival from Arsenal but knows he must work hard to retain it.

Kirkland has also dismissed rumours about his fitness after keeping his ever-present league record for the Owls.

“It’s brilliant that Damian is here,” he told The Star. “The gaffer brings in who he wants and players have to take that on board.

“I’m not guaranteed a starting place; nobody is; as soon as you think you are, that’s when you are in trouble; I’ve always said that.

“If you’re doing in on the pitch then you’ve got a chance of staying in, but no-one has a right to be in the team, unless you’re Steven Gerrard or somebody like that.

“I’ll keep working - I’ll work even harder now Damian is here.

“He’s great lad, and he’s from Arsenal, so he’s had a good breeding.” Kirkland’s place for the Bolton game was put in doubt by Dave Jones when he said that the keeper was ill and if he did not recover in time then Martinez would play.

But Kirkland also heard rumours that he was injured: “Those were a load of rubbish,” he says. “I was just throwing up on Thursday; I’d had some tuna on Wednesday. But I trained on Friday and was okay.

He almost certainly cemented his place for this Saturday’s match at Barnsley by making two first-class saves, from headers in stoppage time.

With some modesty, he said: “The ball came straight at me; if they’d gone in I would have been disappointed.”

He added: “We gave a sloppy goal away when we were on top. But I think it was the best performance of the season, definitely. We were very positive, attacking wise.

“Our fans travel in their numbers. It gives us such a lift when we see them there in their thousands. Hopefully we’ll have the same again next Saturday at Barnsley.

“Hopefully they’ll see we are trying our best for them, just like they’re doing their best for us every week.

“They’re a great set of fans, and they’re entitled to voice their opinion, whatever that is.

“Hopefully we can give them that win soon. But you can’t guarantee anything. We’re working hard. Sometimes you need that bit of luck - we didn’t get it (in Saturday’s 1-1 draw) when that goal was disallowed.”

Jermaine Johnson headed what in the Owls’ view was a legitimate goal but it was rubbed out by an offside decision against Reda Johnson.

Martinez was on the bench - his first competitive game with the club after his signing on a month’s loan from Arsenal.

He impressed Dave Jones in a private friendly at Manchester City and in training.

Kirkland is no stranger to having competition: he and Stephen Bywater vied for the jersey last season and he accepted the challenge.