Bring on the competition! Tom Lees would be delighted to see another central defender at Sheffield Wednesday

Mansfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday Pre-season friendly 2017/18
Mansfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday Pre-season friendly 2017/18
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Tom Lees remains gloriously unfiltered.

Not only is the defender a commanding figure at the heart of Wednesday’s defence, he is also refreshingly open and forthright in his views off the pitch.

Sheffield Wednesday.'Tom Lees.

Sheffield Wednesday.'Tom Lees.

For the media, Lees is a pleasure to deal with. It is rare he declines an interview or dodges an awkward question. He is a leader and consistently puts himself on the line.

Lees sets himself high standards and is determined to be the best player he can be. It is surely only a matter of time before he is gracing the Premier League with his talent. Burnley are big fans of the defender and have been heavily linked with him over the last 12 months.

But Lees is still an Owl and looking forward to leading another promotion charge.

The 26-year-old has been a first-team regular under Stuart Gray and Carlos Carvalhal. When fit, the 26-year-old has always played.

Owls Tom Lees gets away from La Parra....Pic Steve Ellis

Owls Tom Lees gets away from La Parra....Pic Steve Ellis

There is, however, likely to be extra competition for a centre-back jersey this year. Boss Carvalhal is targeting two new defenders before the transfer window shuts at the end of the month.

The prospect of battling it out for a place in the team does not scare Lees.

“I’m fine with competition,” he said. “Everyone has to be playing well every week.

“If you are not, someone can come in and maybe take your place and I’m no different to anyone else. I don’t have a right to start every week. I have just got to do my best.

Tom Lees on the march - Credit: Steve Ellis

Tom Lees on the march - Credit: Steve Ellis

“If I’m playing well, I believe I can do well enough to start. It is the same for everyone else.

“Everyone is going to have competition this year. If you are at a good club, that’s what happens.”

Lees is confident Wednesday can move on from the disappointment of missing out on a place in the top-flight via the play-offs at the end of last term.

“It is difficult to get over it but you have no choice,” said Lees. “We have one of the best squads in the division.

“We should be up there and it is up to us to go again.”

Mounting a third consecutive top-six push will be a tough task.

Lees expects Aston Villa and Norwich City, who are still armed with big parachute payments, to be stronger this season. Villa and Norwich pocketed £40,915,922 each in the 2016/17 campaign as part of the package designed to help relegated clubs adjust to lower revenue streams back in the Football League.

League newcomers Hull City, Middlesbrough and Sunderland have come down with more than £90m each.

Lees said: “I think the division will be really tough as a lot of the teams who under-achieved like Aston Villa and Norwich will be up there.

“You have then got the teams who have come down who will be very competitive and you’ve then got all the teams who were in the play-offs last year who narrowly missed out.

“I would imagine over half of the division will be aiming to get into the play-offs.

“It will be tight but it is important we get off to a good start.

“I believe we have as good a squad as anyone so we have got to go out and show it.”

Lees has challenged the Owls to make a fast start.

He said: “Our attitude has to be right every time we turn up for a matchday.

“We have to find that consistency which we showed in the final third of last season where I thought we played well. We can’t afford to not hit the ground running.

“We have to be at the top of our game and approach everything like a top team. From minute one, we have to turn up and perform every week.

“We have to have the mindset of being winners.”

So what about Wednesday’s automatic promotion prospects?

“We don’t want to get to carried away and drawn into that talk early,” said Lees. “We have to focus on doing everything better this year.”