Sheffield Wednesday: Holidays or hard work? Owls defender Tom Lees knows what he prefers

Tom Lees and the Owls in pre-season training. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Tom Lees and the Owls in pre-season training. Pictures: Steve Ellis
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He enjoyed putting his feet up and relaxing over the summer following a tough, arduous campaign.

But Tom Lees was only too happy to return to work a fortnight ago.

“Everyone enjoys the break and it went really quick, but I think everyone was ready to come back after five to six weeks off,” he told The Star.

Lees and company have been put through their paces in sweltering conditions since reporting back for pre-season.

Following a five-day stint in Chester, Jos Luhukay took his players to the North-west for a second training camp last week.

It was a successful trip, with Wednesday beating Bury in a behind-closed-doors friendly 3-0.

Joost van Aken, Fernando Forestieri and Morgan Fox were all on target.

Lees said: “It is just good to be back out there.

“When you’ve had a long time off, you are just raring to get going again.

“Everyone came back fit, which shows the kind of group we have got. Everyone is doing their bit to look after themselves.”

Van Aken, Kieran Lee, Steven Fletcher and Gary Hooper joined in with the training sessions, having shrugged off their injury problems.

“Everyone feels like they have a point to prove,” admitted Lees.

“A number of the players haven’t had chance to play for this manager yet. I’m sure they are keen to show what they can do.

“It’s like a fresh start when you come back for pre-season every summer. This is our first pre-season with the manager so we are looking forward to seeing how it works.”

Another benefit of the two camps was that it enabled Luhukay to run the rule over academy players such as Frederik Nielsen, Jack Lee, Ash Baker, Alex Hunt, Liam Waldock, Fraser Preston, Connor Kirby and Jack Stobbs.

Luhukay is predicting a bright future for Wednesday, insisting the club possess plenty of talent in their youth ranks.

And age is no barrier to Luhukay. If the next generation continue to develop and improve on the training ground, the Dutchman has shown on numerous occasions he is not afraid to give them a chance.

Lees added: “A lot of the younger lads are training with us so they are eager to show what they can do.”

Some Owls players were overlooked and marginalised under previous boss Carlos Carvalhal.

As the Portuguese chief later conceded, Carvalhal struggled to motivate and get the best out of the fringe players in the squad.

But Luhukay, regarded as being a tough taskmaster, has wiped the slate clean and offered the team a fresh start.

Let’s not forget Luhukay was the man who handed lifelines to the likes of Lucas Joao and Atdhe Nuhiu. The duo repaid his faith by playing key roles in Wednesday’s strong end to the 2017/18 season.

After the Owls thrashed Norwich City 5-1 at Hillsborough, thousands of Wednesdayites stayed behind to clap the players off.

There is a buzz around the place again and the team have reconnected with supporters after finishing a difficult year in fine fettle.

It feels like the beginning of a new era.

Lees said: “We have come back early for pre-season so we are ahead of schedule.

“The manager is not coming in mid-season with injuries or whatever.

“Everybody is fit now and raring to go so it is up to us to stay fit and make sure everybody is ready for the first game.

“We have got time to work on how the manager wants us to play as it’s always difficult in the season. It’s nice to have the time to do that.

“I know it’s a cliche but every game is tough in this league. It’s important we get off to a good start as we haven’t done that in previous campaigns.”

For more news from Hillsborough click here