Sheffield Wednesday: ‘Nothing to prove’ for Tom Lees on his Leeds United return

Tom Lees could return for the Owls at boyhood club Leeds
Tom Lees could return for the Owls at boyhood club Leeds

You could forgive Tom Lees for mistakenly walking into the home dressing room at Leeds United tomorrow morning.

The classy defender is poised to make his first return to Elland Road since leaving the West Yorkshire club in the summer for an undisclosed fee.

Lees first signed for Leeds as an eight-year-old and progressed through their youth-team system before turning professional five years ago. The former England Under-21 international went on to make 135 senior appearances for the Whites before opting to move to Hillsborough just a week before the start of the new season.

It is understood Wednesday met the cost of paying up the final two years of Lees’ contract at Leeds but he has been a rock defensively for Stuart Gray’s side. He has produced a string of impressive performances, with Leeds’ loss very much the Owls’ gain.

Head coach Gray told The Star: “Tom’s got nothing to prove. I think he was at Leeds since the age of eight so he’s done his bit there. I hope he gets a good reception. Let’s hope he will train today and be fit for Saturday.

“I can remember when I played Hull, who were my team. I always looked forward to playing them and it was the same when I played my other old clubs. I’m sure Tom will want to go to Leeds and play well if selected.”

A hamstring injury has forced Lees to sit-out the last two fixtures. But Gray said the 23-year-old has trained the last two days and is in line to play against his old club. However, the Wednesday boss dismissed suggestions that facing Leeds will give Lees added motivation to perform to his maximum.

He said: “That should not change at all. They are professional footballers. You are asking them to play well for the team and the club.”

Gray has been handed a triple fitness boost ahead of their meeting with Leeds, with Lees, Sam Hutchinson and Kieran Lee all pushing for first-team recalls after recovering from injuries.

Although Wednesday boast one of the meanest defences in the league, Gray is demanding more goals from all departments. He was disappointed with the match officials perfomance in the draw with Ipswich Town on Tuesday, claiming decisions are not going in their favour.

“The disappointing thing is we have been working hard on our set plays and scored three goals from them against Ipswich and two were disallowed,” he said. “I don’t know why he disallowed Kamil Zayatte’s header because I didn’t see any of the Ipswich players appealing for a foul. I just thought Zayatte wanted it more than the guy who was marking him.

“Why would Attey [Atdhe Nuhiu] be off-side for the second one? I didn’t see Ipswich’s hands going up and appealing for off-side. The delivery was spot on. If we can maintain that, we will cause teams problems.

“The officials don’t it do deliberately. You just want consistency. I don’t think I am the only manager who has complained. I worked with Eddie Howe at Burnley and when I see he is not happy there is obviously something not right.”

Wednesday thumped Leeds 6-0 back last January at Hillsborough, a result which helped Gray land the head coach role on a permanent basis.

“I went to watch Leeds play Reading on Wednesday and I had a couple of supporters who had a little pop and gave me some grief,” said Gray, who expects Zayatte to be out of action for a minimum of two to three weeks. “Their team has changed dramatically. We have to put them on the back foot.”

The Owls appointed Paul Bell as chief operating officer and John Redgate as finance director at the club yesterday. Bell was director of commercial affairs at Leeds for almost five years while Redgate has worked as chief financial officer at Portsmouth.

Gray said: “All I can control is out on the pitch but if it means generating more revenue for me to strengthen the team that’s great.”