TOM LEES is honest, grounded and conscientious enough not to pull any punches when asked a direct question.
So when talk turned to his assessment of Sheffield Wednesday’s underwhelming campaign after Saturday’s 2-1 derby win at his former club Leeds United, and the need for the Owls players to try to provide a ray or two of sunshine before season’s end, the defender was typically straightforward in his answer.
In the words of Lees it has, quite simply, been a “rubbish season” for Owls supporters. No doubt the majority of Wednesdayites would be quick to agree with that statement.
Wednesday’s first success at Elland Road in 11 years, which helped secure the club a first double over Leeds since April 1960, represents a consolation ‘prize’ in a season that promised so much, but has delivered only endless dismay.
It is one in which the Owls have registered back-to-back Championship wins just twice and, even accounting for the club’s crippling injury disruptions, Lees feels that Wednesday have still short-changed fans.
Despite an eight-point buffer over the bottom three, the Owls still have to confirm their Championship status mathematically before thoughts can start turning to next season.
Lees is also acutely aware of the fact that he and his team-mates must also be motivated by the need to show that they deserve to be part of Wednesday’s plans going forward, with few players having emerged with much credit from an abject campaign.
Lees said: “It has been a rubbish season for them (fans). They have had to put up with some hard times this season.
“Saturday is probably not going to change the season, but it was a good day for them.
Saturday is probably not going to change the season, but it was a good day for them. We have got to try and do that a few more times now between the end of the season.Sheffield Wednesday’s Tom Lees
“We have got to try and do that a few more times between now and the end of the season.
“We have also got to look at our performances from now until the end of the season to kind of put ourselves in the frame for next season. It is about pride. We have got this danger of getting dragged into this relegation battle.
“For yourself, if you have motivation personally it can be to show that you deserve to be here next year.”
Those words will have fallen on receptive ears among the Wednesday faithful, with the optimists among that number being hopeful that the return to the fray of several key players from their previous two seasons of success in Lees, Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan can inspire some positive form and statistics for the remainder of the current campaign.
With Fernando Forestieri and Marco Matias not too far away from first-team returns and Keiren Westwood, Joost van Aken and Jordan Thorniley also on the mend, the sight of a quieter treatment room and more players back in first-team training is also likely to enhance the mood.
On the lift provided by players returning, Lees added: “It definitely is because you can speak about the players’ quality, experience and what they bring to the team. All that is separate.
“But we have got a group of players who have had a tough time for a good few months and you have players coming back fresh into it with a fresh enthusiasm and enjoying being out on the pitch again and I think it is giving everyone a lift.”
Saturday was also perhaps one of the rare instances so far this season when fortune has favoured Wednesday to improve further sagging spirits.
It had looked like manager Jos Luhukay’s side would frustratingly have to settle for a point after opponents levelled late on for the second successive weekend, with Jay-Roy Grot’s 86th-minute equaliser for Leeds having followed Aaron Wilbraham’s stoppage-time leveller for Bolton Wanderers seven days earlier.
The odds were on the Owls seeing valuable points slip through their grasp once again this season with their pre-match tally of 24 points being dropped from winning positions being the second-highest figure in the Championship behind Brentford.
But on this occasion there was an exception to the norm after Atdhe Nuhiu’s precious stoppage-time winner silenced the Elland Road faithful.
““It is obvious in the last few weeks,” added Lees.
“We have not had a lot of chances and when we have managed to get a goal we have not seen it out and have not defended it properly.
“We were lucky we got another chance as it would have been similar to last week if we had ended up with a draw.
“We gave them a few chances, but we had a few as well.
“We looked a threat at times. In the first half we played well, kept the ball, looked solid and I thought we were the better team.
“In the second half once they got a head of steam they were probably on top.
“Last week we stupidly gave away a goal with the same again this week.
“With the run we are on we will take anything.”