Sheffield Wednesday v Ipswich: Ex-painter Harlee Dean aims to seize his chance with Owls
He’s seen life on the other side and is grateful for the opportunities the game has given him after taking the difficult route – via premier club Dagenham and Redbridge and non-League spells like Bishop’s Stortford, Thurrock and Grays Athletic.
This week he spoke of a hunger and desire to do well in his opening statements after joining Sheffield on Wednesday on loan for the rest of the season. All is well, most would say.
In truth, these kinds of comments can be standard and slightly hackneyed when players change clubs. But in Dean’s case, you quickly realize he really means it and what you see is what you get.
After swapping Birmingham – where he was captain before falling out of favor in late autumn – for Wednesday, the centre-half will enjoy his time at Hillsborough for all it’s worth.
A leader and organizer on the pitch, with the passion to go with it, first impressions suggest Dean is cut from the same cloth as other senior defensive figures of yore to represent the club at this level.
Names such as Rob Jones and Darren Purse come to mind.
Dean said: “I started out of the league and was painting houses before playing a game. I know how lucky I am and I would never lower my standards for anyone.
“It’s real life, but I’m not going to say it’s this, that and the other. It’s my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I feel like that made me a better person to have those experiences and I never take that for granted.
“I will never be comfortable, seated and relaxed and I won’t let other people do that and that’s why I’ve probably been captain at the two (main) clubs I’ve been at (Brentford and Birmingham) .
“I try to lead by example and demand of others. I won’t do it in a shrill way in front of everyone. I’d rather have a quiet word in someone’s ear and say that’s the way it is. that we’re doing it better. Maybe it’s going unnoticed.”
Dean’s comments regarding “comfortable” have a clear context.
Earlier this week Birmingham manager Lee Bowyer, speaking after the midweek draw with Peterborough, said Dean was among a group of Blues players who needed a change from their “comfort zone” at the club.
The centre-half took the comments on board and admitted he was “disappointed” with them.
Dean said: “He (Bowyer) had never said that to me personally and then to say it in the press I was a bit disappointed – especially as I was a club captain and proud of leading by example, day after day.
“I think maybe he just meant it in a different way as the club had been in this situation for four years in a row and I had been a main part of that team.
“I could see things from the other side and if other players like Lukas Jutkiewicz (and myself), maybe if we weren’t there then maybe they never would have stayed. upright.
“He’s just trying to change the culture and the dynamic of that dressing room with younger players, which a lot of clubs are doing. I have no problem between me and the manager.
“It was a business decision (to move) and they were open to it and I accepted it. I never felt comfortable, I said in the exit interview here.
After battling fires on the wrong side of the Championship for periods of his time in the Midlands, Dean has a different mission in a different league and a different table area at a club whose supporters are just as demanding and impatient.
The similarity between the Blues and the Owls extends far beyond their traditional blue and white colors and the fact that both operate in football-crazy cities.
He continued: “It’s something to fight for and I wanted that feel-good factor and good locker room atmosphere to come back with the hope of winning games.
“You underestimate that in terms of the head (spirit) and enjoyment outside of football.
“It’s funny, but I thought about it. It’s pressure, but I remember promotion and play-off seasons at Brentford and you don’t even see that as pressure. You see it just like excitement and the next game and you will try to win it.
“At Birmingham, when we could have been relegated, it was the pressure. It’s nice. Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when it will be difficult and not as good as people expected.
“But that’s football – it’s about how you react and having more positives than negatives.”
As for his time in Hillsborough, he’s totally ready to roll.
He certainly plans to help himself, hopefully by securing a longer term contract at the club, after realizing his time at St Andrew’s is effectively over – even though he has another season left on his contract. .
If that doesn’t come true, he hopes to at least put himself on display for something else.
Dean added: “I’m always in. My ‘old man’ says if you’re going to do something, you’re going to do it right.
“This is how I live my life, really – fully invested and I’m very excited.
“It’s a two-club city and you’re either red or blue, right… It’s similar to Birmingham – a massive club with a massive history and a sleeping giant.
“I’ve been in a backward cycle for a while, but if he’s entered a forward cycle – which I think the manager is starting to do, it will get better and better and hopefully I can play a small role in turning this wheel.