Away from football, Tom Lees is a quiet, unassuming person.
But the centre-back is a strong, commanding figure on the pitch and has played an instrumental part in Sheffield Wednesday’s unbeaten start to the season.
The 23-year-old has delivered a string of impressive performances at the heart of the Owls’ rearguard since arriving from Leeds United, helping Stuart Gray’s side record four clean sheets from their six outings.
Gray labelled Lees a “fantastic signing” after Wednesday’s 1-0 triumph at Premier League Burnley in the Capital One Cup in midweek.
The Owls head coach said: “Tom just doesn’t flap. He reads the game well. He is probably one of those who is more appreciated by his teammates than supporters because he just gets on with his job. Tom gives an eight or nine out of 10 performance every week. He is a good talker and organiser.
“Monday to Friday he is a shy lad but come Saturday afternoons he produces fantastic performances.”
Several Championship clubs expressed an interest in signing Lees over the summer and Gray admits it was a big coup for Wednesday to win the race to land the former England Under-21 international.
“I spoke to a few other managers and they couldn’t believe we nicked him,” said Gray. “It’s fantastic for us. But we are only six games in so let’s judge Tom over the season but he’s started very well.”
Lees, recruited for an undisclosed fee from Leeds, partnered Kamil Zayatte at Turf Moor. With skipper Glenn Loovens a booking away from triggering an automatic one-match ban, Gray decided to hand Zayatte his first start since last November.
He said: “We defended our box; everybody put their bodies on the line. Tom and Kamil showed what good defenders they are.
“Kamil took a few knocks and bumps. I had to keep Glenn [Loovens] back because he’s on four bookings. The last thing I wanted was for him to get a booking and miss the Nottingham Forest game on Saturday. In the end, I thought I might have to put Glenn on if it went into extra time because Kamil was probably playing on memory at the end.”
Gray faces a selection headache ahead of their televised lunchtime meeting with table-topping Forest. Chris Kirkland, Zayatte, Jeremy Helan and Gary Madine performed admirably at Burnley and Gray has not ruled out the possibility of strengthening his side for their final fixture before the two-week international break.
He stressed: “You can’t rely on 11 players. At the moment, I’ve got 18. We know we need to add to the squad. There are calls out there. We know the players need a lift.”