SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY: McAllister can't wait for Steel City derby debut

IT'S not every day that you make your debut in a Steel City derby – but Sheffield Wednesday's Sean McAllister will be hoping it's third time lucky when his side face arch rivals United in two weeks time.

The 21-year-old midfielder was an unused substitute when the sides met at Hillsborough in 2006 and missed out last season through injury.

And the promising youngster, who was named Wednesday's Young Player of the Year for the 2005-6 season, is keen to put the Blades to the sword sooner rather than later.

He said: "Everyone knows what those games mean to the fans and to the players.

"It's great to have the bragging rights in the city and I can't wait to make my first performance in such a big game – fingers crossed i'll stay fit.

"I hadn't even made my full debut when I was on the bench in 2006, but I was itching to get on and make an impact.

"That game probably came a bit too soon for me but I definitely would have been in with a shout last year. I was gutted to miss out."

McAllister has cemented a place in the Owls first team this season, playing in every league game so far and is keen to repay manager Brian Laws for giving him the opportunity to prove his worth.

Wednesday signed the youngster from Bolton Wanderers in 2003 and McAllister admitted that the Hillsborough club now holds a special place in his heart.

"I've lived here five years now and I'm starting to see Sheffield as my home," he said.

"I know what the club means to the fans and it would be really great to mark my debut in the big city derby with a goal.

"I've got one goal already this season and I've set myself a target of eight overall. Hopefully I can surprise myself and reach double figures but i'm not getting carried away.

"What makes the derby even more important this time is that both teams are doing well in the league – it's not just local rivalry."

McAllister added: "All I'm concentrating on at the moment is to progress. If I can improve game by game then we'll see what happens but I just want to keep developing and do well for Sheffield Wednesday."

The Owls have made a solid start to the campaign and remain unbeaten at home – lying in the play-off positions just ahead of Sheffield United.

The young midfielder said that the team was starting to gel after the 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night.

He said: "We're playing well at home and the win against Forest kept the points ticking over.

"Back-to-back wins always lift the mood and we're in good spirits – i'm sure it will be the same when we play United after the international break."

McAllister believes Wednesday's recent form is down to a sense of camaraderie and team spirit that has been instilled by Laws.

"The manager has got everyone working hard for each other and we are all busting a gut on the pitch and in training," he added.

"There were a few comings and goings before the season kicked off, but now everyone is settled and together we can push on.

"There's a buzz about the place at the moment and confidence is high – when that happens the results usually follow – so hopefully we can put a decent run together and make our mark on the division.

"At the start of the season I would have said we were aiming for a top- half finish.

"That's still got to be our overall objective, but if we can establish our place in the top half I feel that this team has the potential to put a run together and maybe sneak into the play-off positions."

But Bolton-born McAllister said he didn't want to get ahead of himself and was just delighted to be playing regularly for the Owls.

The youngster only signed a professional contract with Wednesday in 2006 and has spent loan spells at both Mansfield and Bury.

Since signing a two-year contract at the back end of last season the box-to-box midfielder said he had been trying to keep his feet on the ground.

"I'm just delighted to be playing regularly," he said.

"I owe a lot to Brian Laws for seeing the potential in me and giving me a chance but I've also had to put in a lot of hard work myself.

"Let's hope that I can keep improving and progressing – and hopefully score a few against Sheffield United."