Could Sheffield Wednesday youngster play major role in last-gasp survival bid?
There may well have been a collective gasp of air when Tom Lees went down – and stayed down – in Sheffield Wednesday’s defeat at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
The experienced centre-half – Wednesday’s vice-captain no less – has been one of the club’s more consistent performers in a difficult campaign. Indeed, only three Championship players have made more clearances than the 30-year-old this season.
Challenging for an aerial ball, Lees landed awkwardly and though there was no immediate sign of a break or fracture, the club are understood to be waiting for swelling to ease before his condition becomes clearer.
With vital matches against Nottingham Forest and Derby County coming up – Wednesday’s most obvious route to Championship survival is to better Derby’s result this weekend, beat them on the final day and hope Rotherham don’t pick up form in their final three matches – attention now turns to who might take Lees’ place should he be ruled unfit.
The Owls had something of an embarrassment of riches at centre-half at the start of the season, but injury problems for Chey Dunkley, Joost van Aken and Dominic Iorfa as well as the departure of loanee Aden Flint back to Cardiff City, has left them a little short.
Stand-in Wednesday boss Jamie Smith reported that Dunkley is making progress but could be touch and go for the Forest clash, leaving the possibility that 20-year-old Osaze Urhoghide could be asked to step into the heart of defence.
Urhoghide, out of contract at the end of the season, has played 17 times in 2021 since overcoming a nasty knee injury. He has experience at both right-back and at centre-half, but rarely in the middle of a back four.
It has been commented that the youngster’s pace and recovery ability has been missed in recent weeks, with Julian Borner and Sam Hutchinson preferred to partner Lees most often.
Urhoghide’s longer-term future remains unclear. The Star reported earlier this month that pre-contract interest from Europe – most notably Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon – has been batted away by the youngster, who is keen to focus on Wednesday’s survival bid.
A host of English clubs, including Leeds United, Watford and Crystal Palace, are also understood to have registered an interest.