Sheffield Wednesday: Pudil targets Owls Play-Off glory after Hornets near-miss

Daniel Pudil
Daniel Pudil

Daniel Pudil is no stranger to the Championship Play-Offs.

Almost three years have passed since the Czech Republic international experienced a career low at the home of English football.

Daniel Pudil

Daniel Pudil

His Watford side missed out on promotion to the Premier League, losing 1-0 to rivals Crystal Palace at Wembley. A Kevin Phillips penalty in extra time condemned the Hornets to another year in the second-tier.

“It is one of the worst memories of my life because we worked all year to achieve something and we didn’t,” Pudil told The Star.

“We were in a similar position to Brighton as we lost in the last game 2-1 to Leeds and we just needed to win that game and we would have been in the Premier League.

“We then had to focus on the Play-Offs. We played Leicester. We lost away 1-0 and beat Leicester 3-1 at home.

Ross Wallace

Ross Wallace

“It was in the 94th minute when Anthony Knockaert missed a penalty. We scored the winner on the counter attack so we we went to Wembley.

“To be fair, that game at Wembley was really bad from our side and Crystal Palace.”

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It is likely to be Pudil who is tasked with the job of marking Knockaert at Hillsborough tonight when the Owls entertain Brighton in the first leg of their Play-Off Semi-Final encounter.

The left-back, on loan from Watford until the end of the campaign, said: “He [Knockaert] is a good player. I think he’s one of Brighton’s best players so we have to take care of him.

“But on the pitch, it is about 11 players, not just one. We have to play our game and play like we have done all season at home where we have dominated a lot of games.”

After an enjoyable year at Hillsborough, Pudil would love nothing more than to make amends for his Wembley heartache by leading the Owls to glory.

“I think this year can probably be one of the best in my career,” he said. “I’m just focused on every single session and game to try and help Wednesday achieve something special.”

For Pudil’s dream to become a reality, the Owls have to see off Brighton over two legs. The 30-year-old is adamant they are the underdogs, claiming all the pressure is on the Seagulls.

He said: “We know we are not big favourites as Brighton were close to the Premier League and they just missed out in the last game.

“It’s up to them how they are going to play but we are going to focus on our game. We will do everything we can to beat them and go to the final.”

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It promises to be a hectic few months for Pudil, who dreams of being included in the Czech squad for this summer’s European Championships and earn a permanent Owls switch.

He said: “I don’t care if we go to the Premier League or stay in the Championship; I would like to stay here.

“But I just want to focus on these two games. After this season, I will have the European Championships with Czech Republic.

“When we have finished the season, we can have the chat with the chairman and the manager and after that we will decide. I would like to stay over here but it is not up to me.”

Over 34,000 supporters are set to pack into Hillsborough to watch the first installment of the tie and Pudil believes the players will rise to the occasion.

“There will be a big crowd and they are always loud,” he said. “Hopefully they will help us.

“They did in the last game against Cardiff even when we made a small mistake. The stadium will be full so we hope to make them happy.”

Ross Wallace, chasing a third promotion, said the level of support the Owls received against Cardiff City last month gave him “goosebumps”.

The Scot, ruled out for three matches following his sending off against MK Dons, admitted: “I just wanted to be on the pitch.”

Now the Owls winger has challenged Wednesdayites to recreate that atmosphere.

“It gives the players such a lift when you hear the noise,” said the former Sunderland and Burnley player. “I experienced the atmosphere in the Arsenal game.

“It was like a carnival atmosphere and they were fantastic the whole way through so we are hoping they can push us on and give us that extra lift and I’m sure they will.”

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