& The First Man On The Owls Team Sheet is Tom Lees
And the First Man on The Team Sheet is… Tom Lees
Goalscorers get the most acclaim, while the players who can run with the ball stand out most. Goalkeepers, as the very last line of defence, can achieve hero status very quickly with a couple of spectacular saves.
But what of the centre-half who wins virtually every ball and hardly ever puts a foot wrong? Who wins the ball cleanly, rarely giving away free-kicks, which is borne out by an incredible record of only eight yellow cards in 141 appearances for Wednesday and whose ability on the ball is sadly underrated - I could almost guarantee that if footage were analysed it would be proved that he gives the ball away less than any other Wednesday defenders in the current squad. The man who does not seek plaudits yet receives an almost criminal lack of recognition for his unfailingly outstanding performances. Although, significantly not from opposition managers, many of whom have tried to sign him.
This is Tom Lees, the man reportedly signed by Stuart Gray on the recommendation of Wednesday`s development manager Neil Thompson who had worked with the former England Under-21 international at Leeds United. Lees is Wednesday`s best player in my opinion, by dint of his astonishing consistency. I would say that there are four irreplaceable players currently at the club: Keiren Westwood, Barry Bannan, Kieran Lee and Lees - all superb players that any manager in the Championship would be delighted to have in their team. But I bet, if forced to admit, Carlos Carvalhal would say that Tom Lees was the first name on his team sheet.
Most Wednesday fans realise what an asset Lees is but unfortunately there seems to be the misconception from a misguided few that because he is an old-fashioned stopper that he does not use the ball well. In actual fact, his distribution is very good; Carvalhal would not pick him if it was not. Just one recent example was when Pierre-Michel Lasogga hit the post for Leeds in the recent game at Hillsborough: with everyone screaming for Lees to hoof the ball to safety, he calmly played a pass to a teammate`s feet. If this had been Joost van Aken, people would have purred about how good he was on the ball but Lees, as ever, fails to get the praise he deserves.
Sure, there have been the very occasional times when he has been beaten for pace, and he would probably admit that he would have liked to have scored more than his four goals for the club but in terms of simply doing his job very well, no one is better.
Lees is not the only underrated player in the Wednesday team. When Ross Wallace finished third in the 2016-17 player of the season award it was deserved credit for one of Wednesday`s unsung stars but it seems faintly ludicrous that Wallace received a higher share of the vote than Lees; I`m sure Wallace would admit this.
Tom Lees is Wednesday`s rock, and I have absolutely no doubt that were he to leave, the knock-on effect would be huge. He brings a presence and guarantee of excellence to the Wednesday defence. Some people say that he`s very good but might not have the necessary pace to thrive in the Premiership if Wednesday were to achieve promotion. But not every Premiership defender is lightning quick and I think he would definitely be good enough. Don`t underrate him, don`t underestimate him and think of his consistency when casting your vote in the player of the month and season awards!