Big interview: Tommy Lee reflects on his new coaching role at Sheffield Wednesday

It's a new season and a fresh start for Tommy Lee.

Wednesday, 12th September 2018, 16:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th September 2018, 16:52 pm
Tommy Lee

Less than three weeks have passed since the 32-year-old was appointed the Owls' academy goalkeeping coach.

Lee filled the void left by Nicky Weaver, who was promoted to first-team duties earlier this summer. It is fair to say Lee is loving his new role.

Tommy Lee

"It has been really good," Lee told The Star. "I was out of the game for a few months but the plan was to always get back in and do a bit of coaching.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"I spoke to Steven Haslam (Wednesday's academy manager) a couple of times. Ritchie Humphreys is a mutual friend and Steve asked Rich for my phone number. He got in touch and asked if I would like to come down and interview for the job.

"I came down and did the interview. It worked out quite well."

So how has Lee settled in?

Tommy Lee and Ritchie Humphreys during their Chesterfield playing days

He grinned: "I have not had to give any tellings off yet!

"The young lads I'm looking after have given me their all so far so that has been brilliant.

"It is a different being a coach. The way you interact with players changes but I'm getting used to that.

"It is the start of a new chapter but I am really enjoying it.

Lee made over 400 career appearances

"This is a fantastic football club and there is a great set-up in the academy. I think you have seen with Cammy [Cameron Dawson] and Joe [Wildsmith] on the goalkeeping side that there is a framework to get players into the first-team and we have seen that now with some of the outfield players as well.

"To come in and be part of that and learn from the likes of Neil Thompson, Nicky Weaver and Steve is really good."

The former Manchester United junior turned to coaching after injury brought a premature end to his 13-year playing career just over a year ago.

"Obviously, after my injury, I was a little bit disillusioned," he conceded. "It was nice to get away and recharge because I had a tough 18 months with my injury.

"I didn't probably play a game for 15 months. I was rehabing and getting back and I wasn't right. It was a tough 18 months for me but I needed that time away.

"I love football so after a couple of months out of the game where I relaxed and didn't watch or go to any games, it didn't take me long to get that appetite to get back in."

A shoulder injury forced Lee, one of the game's nice guys, into calling it a day.

He said: "It was tough. Prior to my shoulder injury, I don't think I had missed a game for three years.

"I didn't suffer with injuries. I always wanted to be out on the training pitch so to get an injury like I did was hard.

"The operations didn't work. I had three surgeries on my left shoulder and one on my right and it was a bit of a grind. Unfortunately, I had to make the decision to retire.

"To get that four to five months away from football was the best thing I could have done."

Lee wrote his name into Chesterfield folklore, clocking up 328 league outings and featuring in two League Two title-winning sides, as well as winning the Johnstone's Paint Trophy with the Spireites.

"I was obviously disappointed to retire at 31; I believe I was starting to play the best football of my career," he said. "It was disappointing but I was grateful for the career I had.

"I played 450 plus games, had three Wembley appearances and won a couple of league titles. I am proud of what I achieved in my career."

Now Lee hopes to help develop the next generation of goalkeepers at Hillsborough. He is not surprised why a string of the Owls' academy players have been promoted into the senior set-up.

He said: "It didn't take long for me to be in the building and see the professionalism of the fellows in there. When you are on the inside, you can see why they are getting the results.

"A lot of it is to do with who is in charge of the club. Fortunately enough, the gaffer at the minute is willing to play the young players. If you are good enough, he will stick you in.

"It has got to be a positive for the lads at Under-18s level. They know if they put it in and they are good enough, they could be out there on a Saturday playing in the first team, which is brilliant for the academy.

"I remember my time at Manchester United and it was a similar thing with Sir Alex Ferguson. You knew if you could reach a certain standard that he would have no fear in sticking you in. That's good for a young player and the young players I am working with now.

"The two first-team goalkeepers Cammy and Joe came through the academy. It is there. If they want it, they can go and get it."