Goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has paid tribute to Sheffield Wednesday boss Dave Jones, revealing: “We want to stay up, for the fans and for the manager”.
Kirkland, speaking ahead of Saturday’s game against crisis club Blackburn Rovers at Hillsborough, insists that the mood in the Wednesday camp is “brilliant” despite the threat of relegation, and said: “The staff here won’t let that drop.
“The camaraderie and team spirit here amongst the boys remains positive. It’s brilliant.
“Since the day (coach) Stuart Gray came here, he’s had a big influence on us, as do Wilko (assistant manager Paul Wilkinson) and Rhodesy (goalkeeping coach Andy Rhodes).
“But, to be honest, there’s no-one better than the gaffer (Jones).
“As footballers, you play for your manager and you play for your fans. We want to do this for him.
“Personally, I owe him a lot - he brought me to the club and showed a lot of faith in me when, to be honest, I didn’t have many options.
“But he is an extremely good manager, and his record shows that.
“It certainly stands up to most managers around on the circuit. I’m sure he is the man to steer us right over the last seven games.”
Kirkland will make his 41st appearance of the season on Saturday against Blackburn - a welcome statistic for a player unfairly labelled as ‘injury prone’ throughout his career.
“I’ve been happy just to play games,” Kirkland, who arrived at Hillsborough last May from Wigan Athletic, continued.
“A few people did doubt whether my body was up to the task of playing for an entire season, but I had no doubts.
“The Championship is a demanding league; you’re on the road a lot, and playing two or three times a week for most of the season.”
Kirkland credits Sarah Berry, a fitness trainer in Wigan, with improving his condition - and even credits her with saving his career.
“I’ve had no recent problems at all,” the former England goalkeeper added.
“I’ve been working with Sarah, and she’s strengthened my body a lot. In fact, I still see her two or three times a week.
“I had no doubts that I would last a season. Not only have I not missed a league game, I haven’t even missed a training session and that speaks volumes.
“It doesn’t bother me that people wrote me off or doubted me,” Kirkland added.
“That’s just the world that we live in - people will always try and shoot you down.
“As long as you can answer to yourself, then that’s all that matters.”
Meanwhile, Owls new boy Steve Howard - on loan from Hartlepool - is desperate to make his Hillsborough debut against Blackburn this weekend.
“It would be nice to play some part in the game, without a doubt,” Howard, who made his Owls debut in Monday’s 1-1 draw at Bristol City, said.