Sheffield Wednesday: Classy Lees backed to reach the top

Owls defender Tom Lees closes down Bees striker Andre Gray
Owls defender Tom Lees closes down Bees striker Andre Gray
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He is extremely comfortable in possession, loves a tackle and has added extra class to Sheffield Wednesday’s backline.

It has not gone unnoticed the impact Tom Lees has made on Stuart Gray’s side since moving to Hillsborough.

The classy centre-back left Leeds United in the summer, ending his 15-year association with the club. Lees felt he needed a new challenge, having struggled for form during a lengthy period of instability at Elland Road.

Wednesday swooped in to sign Lees for an undisclosed fee at the end of July and the former England Under-21 international has flourished alongside skipper Glenn Loovens, making 14 starts in all competitions and helping the club record eight shut-outs.

Right-back Liam Palmer told The Star: “Tom is fantastic. I have played alongside him a lot of the time. He makes my life so much easier, not just with his talking but his positional play.

“He is always there. If you miss a clearance, you know Tom is going to be there to clear the danger. He has been a great signing.”

Lees is fast becoming a fans favourite and Palmer claims his Wednesday team-mate possesses the ability to play in the top flight one day.

“Tom has got all the attributes to go all the way,” he said. “Age is on his side. He’s only 23 so he’s the same age as myself so I don’t see why not.”

Stuart Gray, the Wednesday head coach, was delighted with Lees’ positional play and composure on the ball in Tuesday’s goalless draw at Brentford.

“There is a calmness to Tom’s play,” he stated. “He doesn’t panic when the ball comes towards him and picks out the right options. His reading of the game is good.”

Gray’s men have gone six matches without a win. Some people believe the Owls have not recovered psychologically from their 7-0 thrashing at Premier League champions Manchester City in the Capital One Cup last month.

Worksop-born Palmer said: “Manchester City possibly had an impact but I think that’s out of our minds now. We knew it was going to be tough going there when you play against world class players.

“Since then, I think we’ve had some good performances but things haven’t dropped for us in front of goal. We need to get ourselves in front and see games out.”

After Saturday’s comprehensive home loss to high-flying Watford, Palmer admits it was imperative the team responded quickly to that setback. The versatile Owls star reckons they produced a solid and resilient performance against Brentford.

He said: “Brentford was a really tough game. We are happy to come away with a point. We had our chances but, at times, we had to defend really well. From a defensive point of view, we are happy with the clean sheet. It was a fast pace and we worked the ball into good areas, put in some good crosses and were unlucky on a number of occasions.”

Palmer said they were determined to get back to basics defensively after conceding 14 goals in their previous five outings.

“We got to seven clean sheets very quickly and it’s been a bit frustrating that we haven’t kept more recently,” he admitted. “We have got to keep doing the basics well and stay compact as a unit.

“We steadied the ship and got back to the level we want to be at in terms of the defence at Brentford.

“We just need to start converting more of our chances.”