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'We couldn't afford him now!' Evatt's frank admission on Kieran Lee

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

'We couldn't afford him now!' Evatt's frank admission on Kieran Lee 13084923

Ian Evatt admits Wanderers would not be able to afford Kieran Lee these days!

The former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder goes back to Hillsborough for the first time this afternoon since he was dumped by the club 14 months ago during the pandemic.

Lee had spent eight seasons with the Owls, becoming a terrace favourite, but concerns over a long-running groin problem prompted the decision to release him in August 2020.

It was only the following January that Wanderers managed to snap him up on a free transfer in League Two – after which he helped transform the club’s fortunes, playing a huge part in their late run for promotion.

Evatt knows it will be an emotional return for the 33-year-old, who was never able to bid a proper farewell to the Wednesday fans. But he admits the situation worked out well for Wanderers, who have been able to keep him fit and firing in League One.

“Kieran had a special haircut for the occasion,” the manager laughed. “I don’t think he has many left so he has to be careful.

“He had no point to prove to me when he came here, but I think he probably did to Sheffield Wednesday. I think if you asked him honestly he’d say he felt let down by them that they didn’t keep him and that he had a lot more to offer.

“Not having a club from August to January the pressure was on him to get somewhere and perform. He has done that, and it’s fortunate for us that we managed to get him.

“With any recruitment there is risk and reward, and you try and limit the risk, but what we pay now and what we are able to pay, would we be able to get Kieran Lee now? Probably not. But everything happens for a reason and we were very fortunate to find ourselves in a position to recruit someone like Kieran, who has been absolutely fantastic, long may it continue.”

Wednesday’s supporters continue to hold Lee in high regard and Evatt fully expects the midfielder to acknowledge that at Hillsborough after the final whistle.

“Being the professional Kieran is, he will want to get three points on the board for us and say his goodbyes afterwards but it speaks volumes to me about the Sheffield Wednesday fans how they treated him when he left, and the comments he has had since playing for us, they are all very supportive because they understand what a fantastic player he was for them over the years,” he said.

Lee’s form has edged Wales international Josh Sheehan out of the side in the last couple of games but Evatt says none of his players are guaranteed a start in what he feels is the most competitive his squad has been since taking charge.

“Kieran is playing well but it isn’t just him, it is all of them. They all know there is serious competition for places,” he said.

“Nobody, regardless of who you are, whether you are Ricardo Santos, MJ Williams, Eoin Doyle, everyone knows that behind them is a player who is ready to play and keep the shirt when they get the opportunity and it can only bode well for us.

“It is about keeping everyone on board and bought into what we’re doing, pushing in the same direction, and I think we have that as a group right now.”


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