Tom Lees and Matty Pearson combining to give Huddersfield Town greater resolve

Clubs across the country have found how difficult it can be pushing players through hectic Football League schedules without a proper pre-season under their belt, so it is of huge credit to Tom Lees that Huddersfield Town are not one of them.

Tom Lees: Missed out on pre-season with new club Huddersfield Town but was not long getting up to speed. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

From Obbi Oulare at Championship Barnsley to Caolan Lavery at Bradford City, many players have learned the hard way the value of a proper pre-season.

Defender Lees has not had one and even though he admitted he spent some of his early games “catching his breath” you would not know it from the stands. It is even more impressive given how demanding Matty Pearson – and just about everyone else who has played under him for that matter – says coach Carlos Corberan’s training methods are.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

With his contract up and the club relegated, former Leeds United centre-back Lees was shown the door by Sheffield Wednesday in the summer, perhaps the worst time ever to be an unemployed footballer given the far-reaching financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Huddersfield's Tom Lees celebrates opening the scoring against Hull City with Levi Colwill on 16th October 2021. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

It was only on August 1, the day Huddersfield’s season started – ironically at Hillsborough in the League Cup – that Lees signed for them. He missed the first three matches and the fifth, but has not only started every other one but excelled, usually in the middle of a three-man defence that has conceded 22 goals in 19 matches this season – not bad for the Championship’s leakiest defence in the previous campaign.

“It was more difficult at the start and it probably affects your decision-making a bit more in games because you’re trying to catch your breath and keep up with things so you’ve not got a clear head but I feel like now I’ve probably settled into the match-fitness and I feel sharp and stronger and into games,” says Lees, talking on behalf of the club’s official charity foundation.

“It just took a while to get used to and the manager’s way of training takes a bit of getting used to and hopefully we’re seeing some rewards now.”

Corberan’s first pre-season at Canalside earned him a reputation for the unrelenting physical demands he put on his players, including borrowing the “Murderball” sessions infamously employed by Marcelo Bielsa, his boss at Leeds United.

Everton's Andre Gomes battles with Huddersfield Town's Matty Pearson during the Carabao Cup second round match at John Smiths' Stadium (Picture: PA)

Pearson, who was signed quickly enough after being released by Luton Town to experience all of this summer’s programme, has confirmed it is still incredibly tough, but feels it has already made him a better player.

“He’s always demanding,” says the Keighley-born defender, who has started every match but one. “Every day he’s demanding more from us which is good for us. He’s always pushing us and making us better players. He’s definitely demanding in every area you can think of, especially his changing methods.

“He helps us and gives us ideas on the pitch to perform even better than just the standard.

“He’s definitely helping me and the team. I feel my game’s coming on and he’s always showing us on videos where we can improve and what he demands and expects of us.”

An indication of how difficult a summer it was comes from the fact that goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, released at the same time as Lees, is one of many footballers let go in the summer still to find a club.

“It was an unprecedented time and I think everybody probably thought the worst summer for it would be last summer but it’s carried on a lot longer and had a big impact on football,” comments Lees.

“I just had to focus on getting fit after my operation and ensuring I was ready to go in and do myself justice when I did agree something.

“There were a lot of people in the same boat but I just had to make sure when I got something agreed, I was ready to go. That was the focus, really, over the summer.

“I wanted to hit the ground running.”