AROUND Christmas, Dave Jones, albeit briefly, questioned the wisdom of his decision to recruit Kieran Lee.
The versatile right sided player joined Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer from Oldham Athletic in the summer but, for one reason or another, struggled to adapt to the demands of the Championship.
Having featured just twice in the first-team set up prior to the fixture with Charlton Athletic on December 22, the 24-year-old’s future at Hillsborough appeared bleak.
But Lee was given an opportunity to stake his claim at Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day on the right wing, which is not his preferred position, and since then has played an integral role in the club’s improved form.
Speaking to the press corps yesterday, a relaxed Jones conceded it can be a “trial and error” process when using the loan and free transfer markets to enhance the options at his disposal. He acknowledged some of his signings will be hits while others will fail to step up to the mark.
Jones, approaching the first anniversary of his appointment, said: “When you are looking at loans and frees, there will be, a long the way, good and bad ones until you find that formula. It is trial and error.
“I’ve got to get players in who I think will do well. Kieran (Lee) didn’t set the football club alight with any great performances but then all of a sudden he spent a few months here, got to know everybody, got settled in and for the last two to three months he has been absolutely brilliant.
“We know our decision making was right on that. Three months ago, and Kieran would be the first one to admit it, we had a question mark over whether we had done the right thing.
“But to be fair to the kid, he has worked so hard to prove us all wrong and he has done that and that’s the attitude we are looking for.”
With Connor Wickham expected to make his full debut at Birmingham this evening following his lively cameo in the entertaining draw with Derby County, Jones will have to leave out either Lee, Jeremy Helan or Michail Antonio as 20th-placed Wednesday look to put further distance between themselves and the bottom three.
Jones, who is running the rule over several trialists, including Matthieu Manset, said: “The strikers did a shooting session on Sunday and it was a delight to watch. They have to take that on to the big stage.”
Things can turnaround very quickly in the Championship, believes Jones.
“I was talking to the Wolves people not so long ago and all of a sudden it just hit them (that they are in a relegation battle),” said Jones. “That can happen in this division when you lose two or three games.”
It has been a blessing in disguise for Jones and his backroom staff having 10 days to prepare the team for the trip to Birmingham. He said “three to four” members of his squad have been carrying knocks and might not have been fit for selection had the Owls had to play a match on Saturday.
Reda Johnson is on the mend from an ankle problem and the popular defender was running again yesterday at the club’s Middlewood training ground. Jones is hoping the injections Johnson is having to ease the niggle will get him through the remainder of the season.
*A fans forum, featuring Jones and chairman Milan Mandaric, will take place at the 1867 Lounge at Hillsborough next Tuesday. The event, hosted by former Owls striker John Pearson, begins at 7pm. Fans looking to attend can apply for two tickets. To apply for a ticket, email firstname.lastname@example.org