Owls must now invest to push for Premier League

Sheffield Wednesday's Tom Lees
Sheffield Wednesday's Tom Lees
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Tom Lees has urged Sheffield Wednesday not to undermine the club’s promotion push by selling their star players.

Former Leeds United defender Lees is one of several Owls players who have been linked with big-money deals out of Hillsborough in the January transfer window.

Premier League side Sunderland have been tracking £3m-rated Lees, 24, while goalkeeper Keiren Westwood is a reported £3m target for Liverpool and Everton.

But, with the Owls sat just four points off the Championship play-offs – ahead of a Hillsborough double-header against Bolton Wanderers and Birmingham City – Lees believes recruitment not sales is key this month.

“This January for Wednesday, should not be about getting rid of players, but about us attracting players who can improve us,” Lees told The Yorkshire Post.

“We are an attractive side to come and play for, are four points off the play-offs, playing a good style of football and with a good dressing room. That’s a big selling point for players who want to come. We have already signed Lewis (Baker, from Chelsea) who had a lot of choices in the Championship, and that shows we must be doing well if someone like him wants to come play for us.”

Baker, 19, is being tipped for a bright future at Stamford Bridge and the midfielder’s arrival at S6 is the first of three planned January arrivals. Two forwards are also believed to be on head coach Stuart Gray’s shopping list.

Lees only arrived at Hillsborough in August, but his performances at the heart of Wednesday’s defence – only Middlesbrough have conceded fewer goals in the Championship – have earned rave reviews and speculation of a move to the Premier League.

Not that the Birmingham-born defender is paying too much attention to the transfer rumours.

“In January, things are written and it’s all speculation, it happens all the time,” he said.

“It’s nice to hear these things, but until something actually happens I don’t think there’s any point in reading it. Some of the things you hear are ridiculous.

“People in the team are playing well, so it’s very positive, and I am sure it will give the boys confidence.”

Gray said the Owls had not received any bids for his players, and would not encourage any.

“Not one bit of interest, and the chairman has come out and said we are not a selling club, which is pleasing,” he said.

“If we are keeping clean sheets, I would imagine people would be interested in my goalkeeper and defenders. At the moment, we are not scoring enough goals, so they are not interested in my forwards.”

Three successive wins have seen Wednesday climb towards the play-offs – flying ‘under the radar’ compared to some of their big-spending rivals – and in stark contrast to 12 months ago when they were battling relegation.

“That’s the best way to be (go under the radar),” said Lees. “I would rather be like that, rather than everybody’s cup final game.

“Sometimes you can start to feel the pressure when you are way out in front.

“But I think teams might start to notice us now that we are around the play-offs, but we have just got to keep preparing the same.

“We have got confidence in ourselves, we don’t need anyone else us to be bigging us up to make ourselves feel that we have a chance this season.”

Lees added: “Why can’t we reach the play-offs? We are four points off the top six, entering the second half of the season. We have played all the teams once and I don’t think we have anything to fear. A lot of times this season we have been unlucky not to beat teams, so we could even improve our points haul in the second half of the season.

“Maybe by bringing in a couple of new faces we can hopefully kick-on in these next few months.

“We don’t want to waste all the hard work we have done, and are really focussed for the second half of the season.”

Lees believes his former side Leeds, who host Birmingham today, face a relegation battle this season but believes Neil Redfearn is the right man in charge.

“He (Redfearn) is a good coach, with stacks of experience from his playing career, and it’s probably time he got the chance to have a go,” said Lees.

“He’s done well before when he has had the chance. But there’s a lot of things going on at Leeds.

“I think he has the coaching ability to keep them up and will get the best out of the players he has got. But it’s a tough league, with a real battle down there, with a lot of good sides.”

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