Lees capture proving major talking point for Owls chief Gray

Owls skipper Glenn Loovens with Tom Lees
Owls skipper Glenn Loovens with Tom Lees
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TOM LEES may be one of football’s quieter individuals away from the pitch, but his displays on it this season have certainly spoken volumes for Stuart Gray.

As a team, the Owls may be greater than the sum of their parts, given their fine start to the 2014-15 season but one or two stars are emerging all the same, including former Leeds United central defender Lees.

The former England Under-21 defender struggled along with several others during a torrid second-half of the season, on and off the pitch, at Elland Road last term, but is rediscovering the poise and solidity of his first few breakthrough years at Leeds if his early-season form is anything to go by.

Lees and his defensive colleagues have conceded just one goal in open play in six games in 2014-15, with Owls head coach Gray admitting he is grateful for what he considers his good fortune in being able to prise Lees down from West Yorkshire to S6.

On Lees, again impressive in Tuesday’s Carling Cup victory at Premier League Burnley, in the absence of regular captain Glenn Loovens, Gray said: “I have spoken to a few other managers and they cannot believe we nicked him out of there.

“It is fantastic for us. It is five or six games in, so let us judge him over the season, but he has started very well here.

“Tom is a fantastic signing. He just does not flap and reads the game well.

“He is probably one of those who is more appreciated by his team-mates than supporters because he just gets on with his job. He gives an eight or nine out of 10 performance every week.

“Tom is a good talker and good organiser. From Monday to Friday he is a shy lad, but come Saturday, he produces fantastic performances.

“He has found a great understanding with Glenn and (Kamil) Zayatte.”

Wednesday are in the midst of their longest unbeaten run to start a season since 1990-91.

While it remains to be seen if Gray’s squad – whose resources are among the most threadbare in the Championship – keep up the pace, the players at least are enjoying the ride and are heading into every game with a ‘no fear’ mantra.

An insatiable work-rate, strong togetherness and organisational acumen have been guiding principles in the Owls’ seasonal opening.

Their displays have surprised many onlookers, if not those who matter and who head to the club’s Middlewood training ground to develop and learn under a proficient tutor in Gray with a collective smile on their face.

Even if word may increasingly be getting out about the impressive dynamic at Wednesday with each passing result, it is something to embrace, according to one player currently making things happen at the top end of the pitch in Jacques Maghoma.

Offering his take on the renaissance, Maghoma said: “It is down to team bonding and hard work. Each and every single one of us knows our jobs, and what to do on the pitch. We are working hard for each other.

“Right now, we are flying with confidence and can, hopefully, take that onto Saturday.”

Spice is added to Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated televised encounter with another form side in Nottingham Forest by the early return to Hillsborough of winger Michail Antonio, just under three weeks after his move, providing he recovers from a knock sustained at Huddersfield on Tuesday.

Maghoma admits that he and good friend Antonio have refrained from contact this week ahead of the weekend clash. “He is an old team-mate and we have got to keep it like that and after the game, we will speak. Right now, we are not talking.

“Hopefully, we can beat them and get the three points. We are not scared of anyone right now; if anything they should be fearing us on our home patch.”