Lees Rising To The Challenge

I think a lot of people will have expected Tom Lees not to continue as skipper for Wednesday. And, they more than likely will have predicted Barry Bannan would be the man to take the armband. Garry Monk has spoken about giving Bannan the responsibility as a challenge to take his game up a level, but I think he’s also laid down the gauntlet for Lees as well.

I think it’s fair to say Lees’ form has dipped in recent times when compared to the displays we saw earlier in his Wednesday career. It’s led to a lot of criticism, with suggestions that he was better alongside former skipper Glenn Loovens, for example. Lees’ performances coincide with the general mentality of the team, and in my opinion, he got sucked into the negativity. And he undoubtedly suffered from a lack of confidence as a result.

Losing the captaincy, a role which has been his since Loovens left the club, will have been a blow and disappointing to take. As will the knowledge of his performances not being at the level they should be at. However, after watching his post-match interview from the Watford game, it’s pleasing to see how Lees is reacting to the gaffer’s decision to give Bannan the armband this season.

As he says, it could be a defining moment for him in his career and at Wednesday. He could let the decision affect him negatively, fall away, and that be what he’s remembered for here. Or, he can rise to the challenge and come back stronger than ever. And it’s the latter Lees is choosing to go along with, which shows he has the mentality we want at the club. In the face of adversity, he wants to meet the challenge head-on, which is very much what Garry Monk wants from his team this season.

I think Lees has slotted into the central role in our back three and done well. We’re keeping clean sheets and looking more organised and solid in defence, which is pleasing to see. Lees knows he has competition for his place in the starting XI too, especially with new signing Chey Dunkley on the comeback trail. But for now, he’s rising to the challenge and proving himself worthy of a shirt.

It’s another sign that times are changing for the better at Hillsborough. After some adjustments and work done during the short pre-season period by Garry Monk and his staff, we’re seeing players rise to the challenge and have the courage and determination to overcome disappointments and adversity. It gives me feelings of optimism and positivity, and I’m sure many others feel the same. Long may it continue.