Leeds United: Defender Lees passed fit to face his former club

Tom Lees
Tom Lees
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Tom Lees has been passed fit to face Leeds United after recovering from the hamstring strain which threatened to deny him a quick return to Elland Road.

The centre-back resumed training with Sheffield Wednesday yesterday morning and is set to reclaim a place in their starting side against Leeds tomorrow.

Lees will line up against United for the first time since quitting the club and moving to Hillsborough a week-and-a-half before the start of the Championship season.

The former England Under-21 international went to Sheffield in search of a fresh start having amassed more than 100 appearances for Leeds but struggled for form during a prolonged period of instability at Elland Road.

United effectively released him on a free transfer with Wednesday agreeing to meet the cost of the last two years of his contract in West Yorkshire, and his departure ended a career with United which began as a youngster in the club’s academy at Thorp Arch.

The 23-year-old has regained his poise with Wednesday and was a fixture in their team until he suffered a minor hamstring strain ahead of a 2-1 defeat to Cardiff City last weekend.

He also missed a midweek draw with Ipswich Town but Wednesday manager Stuart Gray, who is also welcoming Sam Hutchinson and Kieran Lee back from injury, said: “They’ve trained, full intensity. It’s a huge plus for us.

“Tom’s got nothing to prove. He was at Leeds since the age of eight so he’s done his bit there. I hope he gets a good reception.”

Lees was part of the United team who lost 6-0 to Wednesday during the last meeting between the club, Leeds’ worst league defeat for 55 years and a result which helped Gray secure the full-time manager’s job at Hillsborough.

The Owls boss was in caretaker charge at the time but his players ran riot on a desperate afternoon for United. Leeds conceded four times in the second half after Matt Smith was sent off just 60 seconds into his appearances as a substitute.

Gray, however, denied that the result would have a bearing on tomorrow’s game after so many changes to the squad at Elland Road during the summer.

Only two of the players who started at Hillsborough in January – Jason Pearce and Alex Mowatt – were included in the line-up chosen by Leeds head coach Darko Milanic for Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with Reading.

Gray said: “I went to Leeds to watch them play and a couple of their supporters had a little pop. I got a bit of grief. But I looked at that Leeds team and it’s chance dramatically so I don’t think their manager can turn around and say ‘remember last season.’

“As a manager you always want to win but then you want to get the performance and have 11 individuals playing to their full potential. The Leeds game summed that up - six goals, clean sheet, live on TV. It was very pleasing.

“It’s been colourful (at Leeds) but that’s happening more and more in football. They played well against Reading and the crowd got behind them because they had a go. We’ve need to put them on the back foot.”

Gray urged referee James Adcock to show leniency in the early stages of tomorrow’s televised match, saying: “It’ll be 100 miles an hour and we need a strong referee. I hope we get one who lets things go for the first 20 minutes. If he doesn’t, he’s going to put himself under pressure.”

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