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OPINION: Sheffield Wednesday’s most important player was revealed this week

Reflecting now on the reaction to the Fernando Forestieri saga, it was obvious to see how many Sheffield Wednesday rated him as a player. They called him their best player and that he’d be a struggle to replace. I agree.

In terms of pure talent, Forestieri is the best player at the club. He has bags of talent and has showed it time and time again. It was why so many were so willing to forgive him for his antics, I’m certain that if Jack Hunt, a solid but not much-loved player, had done something on this level he would have been chased out of Sheffield by an angry mob, no matter how many times he apologised.

So you probably think I’m going to say that Forestieri is our most important player and the willingness to have him back in the first time after essentially going on strike in an attempt to leave is why he’s so important. No he’s not. Come on, you’ve seen the image at the top of article, that doesn’t look like Forestieri. No, while most teams’ best player is also their most important player, for Wednesday it isn’t. We are rather luckily quite loaded in the forward area now, as we have the likes of Steven Fletcher, Gary Hooper, Lucas Joao and Atdhe Nuhiu if Forestieri were to leave. I’d have been happy with that for the rest of the season.

No, the player that makes our team a winner, the one who can’t lose at any cost, the one who adds the most to our squad is Tom Lees. You know, the guy in the picture at the top. Pretty big spoiler really.

This became very clear on Tuesday night. Lees has very rarely been out of the first team since signing in 2014, but he was ruled out of the match with Burton Albion due to an injury. And in the end, the Brewers comfortably beat us 3-1, with former player Chris O’Grady having one of the best games of his career post-Sheffield Wednesday.

I know Wednesday have had an oddness weakness against teams expected to be in the lower part of the Sky Bet Championship table, but this was still a humiliating loss where our defence looked very weak. And it was a defence that up to now, had done very well. During the last two seasons we’ve matched the club record for clean sheets and managed to keep out the potent strike force of both Aston Villa and Norwich City in their opening two league games. Yet when Lees was taken out of it, they stumbled and allowed a team that’s never been in this league to run all over them.

And I’m sure a few are pointing to the fact Jose Semedo, not usually a centre-back, was his replacement due to our lack of depth in the position. But let’s not pretend he’s completely unfamiliar with being in the back four. Until he moved to England, Semedo was a centre-back and he knows how the position works. The only real concern for him in that position, and the reason Charlton Athletic moved him to the midfield, was his height and Burton did pick on that, especially with the bulky O’Grady up front. But the issues didn’t just come from Semedo or his defensive partner Sam Hutchinson who’s been a revelation in that position this season, so it’s unfair to blame it all on the lack of depth.

No, the reason that Lees is the most important Wednesday player is that not only is he a top class defender, but he’s a leader at the back. He can quickly analyse situations and is able to sort out the defence so they can deal with it adequately. It also helps that he can have confidence his goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, but even if you were to put Joe Wildsmith, Jake Kean or Tango (He’ll fill half of the goal with his size) in-goal, that defence is still going to be rock solid.

And if he hadn’t decided to sign a new contract with us and decided to move to the Premier League, we’d be at a loss to replace him. Not only are we in an era where quality defenders are really lacking, which is why someone like Grant Hanley can cost £7m, but we’d lose someone that provides a lot of the heart for this team. You can find a solid defensive replacement who might be able to match the ability of Lees if you are willing to pay, but players with leadership skills like him only come once in a blue moon.

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