WHEN Tom Lees stood on the touchline at Gigg Lane in pre-season, ready to come on as a substitute for Leeds United, little did he know that he was about to play his part in one of Bury’s most successful seasons.

The 20-year-old defender has since gone on to be a key figure in the Shakers team after spending one year on loan with the club.

And while he is still unsure where he will be plying his trade next season, he will look back on the one that has just ended with great fondness.

“I first knew about coming here when we (Leeds United) were 3-0 down against Bury in pre-season and I was about to come on as a sub,” said Lees.

“As I was waiting on the touchline, Alan Knill whispered in my ear not to get injured because I was signing for him. When he rang up a few days later, I just said ‘yes’ straight away and I am glad I did because this stint has done wonders for my career.”

Lees has been a mainstay in the centre of defence, scoring a number of key goals in the process.

He has grown into a top player, with Leeds United admitting a number of clubs have already enquired about his availability next season.

Manager Simon Grayson wants to check out the player first hand, however, and will run the rule over him in pre-season before deciding on the next stage of his development.

Whatever the Leeds boss decides, Lees is confident he has matured during his spell at Gigg Lane.

“It has been a great season,” he said. “I have really enjoyed my time at Bury and to cap it of with promotion is fantastic.

“I have enjoyed playing with this group of lads and have made some good friends. I will maintain these friendships over the next few years, wherever my career takes me.

“I can certainly take a lot away with me. I worked under a good manager, who taught me a lot, and lined up with some good players. Playing games every week has helped me no end.

“I have learnt a lot. It was important for me to play centre-half and, hopefully, I have proved I can handle that job. There are a lot of good strikers in this league and I think I have more than held my own against them. I have improved, I am still a long way from what I want to be as a player but every player should say that.

“You want to get better all the time. But I do think I made the most of my time here.”

Lees is hopeful of making the breakthrough at Elland Road next season, but is not counting his chickens just yet.

“I am going to enjoy the next few weeks and then sit down with the people at Leeds and see what the plan is,” he said. “I’m sure there have been plenty of people watching me this season in the stands, whether they are from Leeds or other clubs.

“I just had to stake my claim by playing well for Bury, which I did. I think my performances got better as I grew into the way the club played and I became more experienced.”