TOM LEES is relieved to be back playing for Sheffield Wednesday after a freak training ground accident.
The Owls captain has been one of the few constants in a troubled season at Hillsborough.
Under new manager Steve Bruce, Lees had helped plug a defence which had the worst record in the Championship. But the centre-back was sidelined for a fortnight – only returning in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Swansea City – after his training ground mishap which left the 28-year-old with a deep hole in his leg.
“On the Friday, literally the last kick before training ended – before the Reading game – I caught a stud which basically went through my knee, right to the bone,” said Lees.
“It was a difficult one to shake off, so I just had to be patient, which was frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do about it. It was just a freak accident.
“I had lots of ice on it, but you just have to wait for it to heal. I had a hole there but it’s almost healed up. I just have to be careful.
It’s never nice to be injured, but at times it reminds you how much you miss it when you are sat at home on a Saturday just itching to get out there.Sheffield Wednesday’s Tom Lees
“It was strange one, frustrating, because I felt like I had gone back into a little rhythm. Myself, (Michael) Hector, (Liam) Palmer and (Morgan) Fox had been playing in a settled back four, getting that understanding and keeping clean sheets.
“So it’s great to be back,” said Lees, who missed draws against Reading, Millwall and Rotherham United. “It’s never nice to be injured, but at times it reminds you how much you miss it when you are sat at home on a Saturday just itching to get out there.
“You miss it, so being out there (against Swansea), I was just enjoying it even more.”
Six clean sheets in their last 10 outings have helped stabilise the Owls, after the exit of former manager Jos Luhukay.
That has mainly been based on the central defensive partnership of Lees and on-loan Chelsea defender Michael Hector.
After Luhukay’s constant rotation, Lees is relieved to have some consistency in personnel and formation.
“It’s been a good partnership,” he said. “There’s been quite a bit of chopping and changing, but we are both comfortable playing in a four, so it’s quite nice to have that continuous relationship.
“It might change but it’s worked really well and has beennice to play alongside Hector. Defenders all have the same mindset, they just want to defend, but it’s been nice to keep the same formation, personnel.
“If you are keeping clean sheets why do you need to change it? It gives you that extra incentive to keep a clean sheet.”
Wayne Routledge’s deflected effort prevented a seventh clean sheet in 2019 against the Swans, but the Owls were already 3-0 ahead after an impressive opening 45 minutes.
After scoring just six goals in their previous 10 games, that was a welcome relief inside Hillsborough.
Lees said: “It was refreshing to have that comfort, going 3-0 up so early on. It allowed us to enjoy the game that bit more. Obviously, we have struggled to score goals so to get three was really nice.
“It’s down to the team to make the atmosphere. At certain points this season we haven’t really given them much to cheer about. But (against Swansea) I don’t think anyone can complain we haven’t given them something to cheer about. They get behind us, they just need something to feed off.”
Swansea was the first of three games at Hillsborough inside 10 days. Tonight, the Owls host Brentford, boosted by the return of Fernando Forestieri from suspension, before the Sheffield derby next Monday.
Nine points adrift of the play-offs, a top six finish is unlikely with 13 games remaining. But Lees has been impressed with “winner” Bruce since he arrived at Hillsborough on February 1.
He said: “It’s going to be tough (against Brentford). At the start of the season they were one of the best teams we have played.
“For whatever reason, whether it’s losing a manager or whatever, they haven’t done as well as they have done in previous seasons. “But they are on a good run at the moment, so are dangerous.”
Regarding the play-offs, Lee continued: “We have not got to get ahead of ourselves. It’s just one game. For the last three games (three successive draws) everyone has been saying ‘it’s not good enough’ and ‘we need a major clear out’, things like that. We have had a disappointing season but we still mathematically have a chance to do something. We have all got points to prove with the new manager coming in.
“It’s been great (under Bruce), he’s got a really good mentality towards the game, and you get that vibe that he gives you. His enthusiasm is infectious, has a will to win and has got the mindset of a winner which we are trying to take on board.”
Last six games: Sheffield Wednesday LWDDDW Brentford WWLWLW.
Referee: S Duncan (Northumberland).
Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Brentford 1, September 12 2017, Championship.