Blackburn Rovers v Sheffield Wednesday - Tom Lees hopes labour bears fruit

Owls boss Tony Pulis. Picture: Steve Ellis.Owls boss Tony Pulis. Picture: Steve Ellis.
Owls boss Tony Pulis. Picture: Steve Ellis.
The last week before Christmas was an important one for Sheffield Wednesday. The proof in the pudding will come at Blackburn Rovers this afternoon.

It was not just beating Coventry City 1-0, with a header from centre-back Tom Lees, that made the last seven days so significant, it was also the fact it provided a first opportunity for Tony Pulis to get some serious training-ground work into his players.

Pulis’s methods revolve around rigid defensive organisation. For them to be effective requires hours on the training ground, yet the Owls appointed him when hardly any were available. Now they have finally had a crash course in what is expected, Lees expects them to be much better.

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Pulis arrived midway through an international break and since his first game, at Preston North End in November, Wednesday have had a match every midweek and weekend until last Saturday. They only kept one clean sheet in his nine matches.

“It’s been a good opportunity to get out on the training pitch,” says Lees. “It’s the first time since he arrived we’ve been able to have a good period of work.

“You’re never going to win a game if you’re just shipping goals all the time. If we can give ourselves a chance with a clean sheet you’re more likely to win.

“It’s important to get that right and cut out the mistakes. Being organised and solid is definitely a massive part of it and the manager’s really big on that.

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“As a defender I was looking forward to working with him (Pulis) because he can make your life a bit easier with the way he sets up. He tries to make it so organised and rigid that it forces the other team to be a bit predictable and takes out the end-to-end basketball style of the game so it becomes a lot more organised. For the defenders that certainly makes your life a lot easier because you’re all in position, you know where everybody should be and it makes it easier to organise things and see things coming.

“Every single player has got their job to do and he expects a lot of hard work when you haven’t got the ball.”

If lack of time at Middlewood Road has hampered Pulis, so have injuries.

Barry Bannan, Kadeem Harris and Josh Windass are doubts for this afternoon’s 3pm kick-off with muscle injuries. Holding midfielder Massimo Luongo and centre-back Julian Borner will definitely miss out.

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“They’ll all want to play,” says Pulis of Bannan, Harris and Windass. “What we don’t want to do is play three players, lose them after 20 minutes and then have them out for four or five weeks.

“Julian’s still struggling with that knock (to the head) he had (at Huddersfield Town). I don’t think there’s any substantial damage, but we have to be careful. Massimo played too early (after injury) down to his enthusiasm. We have to make sure when he does come back, we don’t get a recurrence.”

Lees says it is the job of those who are fit to cement themselves in the side.

“When the form isn’t really there managers are going to change it,” he reasons. “A settled back line is what you’re after but you have to earn it.”

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