Kieran Lee: Sheffield Wednesday's unsung hero

Sheffield Wednesday's Kieran Lee scores their second goal

The Owls midfielder hasn't had the plaudits of some of his teammates.

It's 363 days since Kieran Lee stood beside Stuart Gray on the bridge that links Parkside Road with Hillsborough's South Stand, discussing his new two-year Sheffield Wednesday contract in the Steel City sun.

Lee would later cite his then manager as a factor in his decision to stay with the Owls - and rightly so. Before Gray replaced Dave Jones at the back end of 2013, initially on a caretaker basis, Lee was a shaggy-haired right-back-cum awkward-right-winger, who struggled to convince against Championship left wingers and lacked any sort of conviction or composure when required to attack. There were times when it appeared stability at Leeds United would arrive before the words Kieran Lee on the Sky Sports vidiprinter.

Bolton Wanderers David Ngog in action against Sheffield Wednesday's Kieran LeeLee against Bolton's David N'Gog in late 2012

Under Gray, all that changed. Lee was quickly moved inside, to the central midfield position he'd occupied while coming through the ranks at Manchester United, and Wednesday's results, which included a 6-0 home victory against Leeds in which Lee was instrumental, rapidly improved. From scoring no goals and one goal in his first two seasons in Sheffield 6, the boy from Tameside suddenly developed a knack for netting - doing so on six occasions throughout 2014-15.

Precisely a week later, Gray was gone - replaced by Portuguese unknown Carlos Carvalhal on the final day of June. The signings of Alex Lopez and Lewis McGugan, both central midfielders, soon followed and Lee's position was seemingly under threat - especially when, three games into the Championship season, he'd played a mere 18 minutes of football. The Owls then added another player in Lee's position, in the shape of Barry Bannan.

Sheffield Wednesday's Kieran Lee scores their second goalLee on target against Birmingham on Boxing Day

Since being restored to Wednesday's starting lineup against Leeds at the end of August, Lee has started all but a couple of their 43 league and play-off fixtures - failing to complete a further two. No Owls player has made more appearances (53 in all competitions). Seven goals (six league, including one in the play-offs) also arrived - his best ever seasonal tally - along with three assists. The 27-year-old also made comfortably the highest number of tackles (115) of any of his teammates in the Championship, with only Bannan (65 and 1,805 respectively) making more interceptions and accurate passes of all of Carvalhal's midfielders.

Sheffield Wednesday's Kieran Lee (L) and Fernando Forestieri look dejected at the end of the matchLee (L) consoles Forestieri after Wednesday's play-off final defeat at Wembley

Bannan was, quite rightly, named in the PFA's Championship team of the year, while Fernando Forestieri, scorer of 15 goals and creator of seven, came a close second in the PFA's divisional fan player award. Lee, though, will struggle to get the recognition he deserves - from outside Hillsborough at least - though the unassuming ex-Oldham player probably prefers it that way.

But as Carvalhal told BBC Radio Sheffield in April: "Some players are more easy to discover, some players are more easy to discover to the coaches.

"When I looked at the team last year, for example, and I looked at almost all the games of the team last season, immediately from the first game I put my eyes on Kieran Lee."

Lee's key 2015-16 stats (Championship and play-offs):

  AssistsGoalsInterceptions wonTackles wonAccurate passesMinutes played
Kieran Lee 3 6 59 115 1,416 3,851

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