He is popular figure in the dressing room and a key component of Wednesday’s midfield engine room.
And Kieran Lee put in a typically energetic performance on his return to first-team action.
The 28-year-old was due to start on the substitutes bench against Derby County but Wednesday drafted him into the starting line-up after David Jones pulled out on the morning of the match due to illness.
Lee completed nearly an hour of the Owls’ thrilling victory over Derby County. It was his first outing in over three months.
When the former Oldham Athletic player underwent hip surgery shortly after the goalless Hillsborough draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers on January 2, head coach Carlos Carvalhal feared the worst. The Portuguese chief expected Lee to miss the rest of the campaign.
But Lee worked hard with Wednesday’s medical team at the club’s Middlewood Road training base and is back ahead of schedule. His energy and ability to pop up with vital goals could be vital in the run-in.
Right-back Jack Hunt told The Star: “Kieran is a great guy. Everyone loves him in the dressing room and he’s a top player.
“We are really happy to have him back. We know how important he is to us. Kieran is like a new signing.”
No player in Carvalhal’s squad made more appearances than Lee in their march to Wembley last season. Lee featured 52 times and his partnership with Sam Hutchinson in the centre proved hugely important to their promotion tilt. The Lee-Hutchinson axis gave the Owls a fine blend of aggression and creativity.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility Carvalhal will be able to call upon the services of Lee and Hutchinson at Ipswich Town tomorrow. While Lee’s fitness and sharpness is improving with every passing day, Hutchinson is on the mend following a calf problem. The uncompromising midfielder has not played since limping off in the first half of their South Yorkshire derby with Barnsley at the start of the month.
“We have done really well without Kieran and Sam but they will strengthen us in midfield,” acknowledged Hunt. “Sam is a massive player for us whether he plays in central midfield or centre-back.
“The squad is amazing and we just want everybody fit so we can have one final push. Hopefully we will do it this year.”
Wednesday underlined their grit and determination to fightback and beat the Rams for the first time in 18 meetings. It was another ugly win but a crucial three points in their battle to secure a play-off spot.
Hunt said: “We went behind against Derby so we showed how resolute we are and turned it on after a sticky opening second half which was really unlike us.
“It was nice to put the mistakes to bed and turn it around.
“Everybody is chipping in. The attitude of everybody in the camp is superb. You could have a few people unhappy that they are not playing and stuff but everyone’s attitude is brilliant at the moment and it is showing on the pitch.”
The Owls’ destiny is in their control. Carvalhal’s troops dropped to fifth in the table after Huddersfield Town’s midweek victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
However, a win at Portman Road will secure their play-off qualification with a match to spare. A draw could be enough depending on seventh-placed Leeds United’s result at home to Norwich City.
“The job is not done yet,” insisted Hunt. “Our aim is to finish in the play-offs whether that’s third, fourth, fifth or six.
“It would be really good to go to Ipswich and get it done and dusted.”
Like Wednesday, Fulham have hit form just at the right time. The Cottagers, who visit S6 on the final day of the regular league season, have chalked up four straight wins, hitting 13 goals in the process.
Hunt said: “We have done better than Fulham in the last six games but we are happy for everyone to keep talking about them. We want to stay under the radar.”