“I just enjoy playing football”: Sheffield Wednesday skipper Tom Lees on challenging for first team action after his comeback with the under-23s
Tom Lees has played in far bigger games, in front of far bigger crowds, than the one that saw Sheffield Wednesday under-23s draw 1-1 with their Burnley counterparts at Curzon Ashton yesterday.
But 61 unscathed minutes at the centre of defence are ones he will remember for a while, having stepped out on a football pitch for the first time in over two months.
The Owls skipper suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up for their defeat to QPR in August and has been forced to watch from the sidelines as Garry Monk set about imposing his vision on Wednesday fortunes.
And Lees, 28, said he is delighted to have made the latest step on the road to recovery: “I just enjoy playing football and sometimes you take that for granted so when it’s taken away from you you realise how much you miss it.
“Today for me was all about getting back used to that game speed and regaining that sharpness in your decision making for when you are out on the pitch.
“I’ve been doing a lot of running and fitness work but a game is completely different and I’m pleased I’ve come through feeling OK so that’s good.”
Lees was joined by first team Jordan duo Thorniley and Rhodes in the starting line-up, with Rhodes scoring in only his second appearance since mid-August.
The skipper stressed the importance of pitch time for the trio and praised the efforts of his younger team mates on the day.
Speaking to budding journalist Alex Lection, he said: “The first five minutes were pretty hectic today but it was good to go straight in as that is more realistic to a first team game and we managed to keep the match at a good tempo which was great to see.
“It can be difficult for the under-23s when you get lads coming down from the first team so it is important when we do drop down that we help the lads and pass on what we can so we can help make their game better.
“We’ve got a big squad but there is a few lads [from the under-23s] that train with us regularly that have quality so for them it’s all about believing in themselves and making sure they make the most of these games to show what they can do.”
Lees is yet to feature in a Monk matchday squad and with the defensive duo of Julian Börner and Dominic Iorfa having struck up an impressive understanding at the heart of the Owls defence, he may have to work hard to push his case for a start.
Last week Monk suggested that after such a long lay-off his captain has a way to go in terms of ‘football fitness’ and that he will not be rushed back into first team contention.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard and getting fitter as that shows to me and the staff that I am ready to play,” Lees said.
“I’ll continue to follow the plans that have been put in place for me and do everything I can to make myself available.
“But ultimately it comes down to the gaffer so we’ll discuss how I feel and he’ll let me know what’s going on”.