Dom Howson’s Sheffield Wednesday column: The conundrum over Kieran Lee

Kieran Lee
Kieran Lee
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If anyone in the Owls squad could do with a strong pre-season, it is Kieran Lee.

The last two years have not been kind to the former Manchester United trainee. Multiple hip problems have limited him to just 43 appearances. His last competitive outing came over six months ago.

What Lee, a popular figure on the terraces and in the dressing room, desperately needs is game-time this summer. The only way he will truly build up his match fitness and sharpness is by playing matches.

It is easy to forget that Lee didn’t play a part in any of the club’s 2017 friendly programme. He was always playing catch-up.

By the sounds of things, boss Jos Luhukay is gently easing the likes of Lee, Gary Hooper and Steven Fletcher back into action. As part of the club’s training camp in the North West this week, the trio have undergone some fitness and ball work with the rest of the group but Luhukay is wary of pushing them too hard following lengthy injury lay-offs.

This is a big 12 months for Lee in more ways than one. He has plenty to play for as his contract is up next year.

Can Lee put his injury troubles behind him and persuade Luhukay, who is still learning about his qualities as a player, he is worthy of a new deal?

When Wednesday bought Lee in May 2012, the club originally signed him as a full-back.

But Stuart Gray converted him into a central midfielder and Lee flourished under his and Carlos Carvalhal’s wing.

When he is fully fit and in tip-top form, Lee offers a lot defensively and in attack. As Carvalhal regularly pointed out when he was in charge, Lee frequently passes the 12-kilometres-per-match threshold. He is a fine athlete and a man capable of getting through lots of work in the heat of the battle.

Nonetheless, it remains a mystery where Lee fits into Luhukay’s team. Will it be in the midfield engine room? Or will Luhukay ask him to do a job as a right wing-back? We have seen on a number of occasions that Luhukay likes to mix up his tactics and personnel so Lee’s versatility could boost his hopes of earning a regular starting spot in the Dutchman’s first 11.

Midfield is arguably the most congested part of Wednesday’s team and it is a department Luhukay will be aiming to coax more goals out of next season.

Given Lee, who recently turned 30, has proven in the past he is a genuine goal threat from the centre, Luhukay may decide not to change his position.

However, can Lee physically handle the demands of a 46-game season following two injury-hit years? Wednesday will certainly hope so.

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