Lee Grant is Derby County’s undisputed number one. No one is even questioning that fact, and for a free transfer he has been one of Nigel Clough’s greatest signings in a period of mediocre transfers in which many failed to impress. Granted, (excuse the pun) Grant has played most of his football under the new coaching guidance of Steve McClaren and Goalkeeping coach Eric Steele. However, having been injured earlier on the season for around 6 weeks, he seems to have come back lacking a tiny bit of confidence and some errors have been creeping in. The errors that come to mind include the East Midlands Derby, when Nottingham Forest’s Ben Osborn scored a last minute winner at the near post to seal victory for Forest, and the other was against Sheffield Wednesday when Will Keane stormed through and Grant seemed to wrongly anticipate where the shot would go, and went down far too early, in this case though, Derby still won the game and it cost no points.
This was the first time in a year and a half at his boyhood club, after his return, that the fans started to question him, but I think there is no need. Grant has always been mooted as one of those keepers with unfulfilled potential, having starred at Sheffield Wednesday and then Burnley, but never quite got the big move that many touted him for. He was brilliant last season and at the start of this season, but during his injury, McClaren decided to bring in England’s future goalkeeper for many years in my opinion; Jack Butland. McClaren had already stated that Kelle Roos was Lee Grant’s long-term successor, but did not yet see him as ready for first team action. Butland came in, and even though his distribution was questioned, (Grant’s is not much better) he seemed to command the area more forcefully as he is of a considerable stature. It would be hoped that knowing that Butland had been a success, and a possible permanent move in the future, Grant would come back better than ever, if that was possible, alas he seems to have stuttered. Grant is still a formidable target to beat however, and his passion for Derby County is clear to see, and the fans must remember how rare it is to have a home-grown talent in his prime. Grant maybe in his 30’s but he is coming into his prime age for a goalkeeper, you only have to look around the leagues to see the average of a keeper, and Grant is comparatively young.
Statistically, Grant is 19th in the Championship league table of saves, but circumstances must be taken into account, as he did miss six games, and also, Derby are riding high in the top two of the table, with one of the best defences, so shots against him would be limited. Grant may have only made 61 saves this season, 50 less than David Button who has pulled of 111 saves, but he has made 40 of those saves away from home, highlighting just how strong Derby are at home and how he does not have much to do when standing in between the posts at the iPro stadium. Grant makes on average 2.10 saves a game according to Squawka.com, roughly the same as Artur Boruc of Bournemouth, another high-flying team, makes, but why should they make more saves, it is a compliment to the defence in front of them, and also the way that Boruc and Grant organise their defence.
Grant still pulls off many match winning saves, don’t get me wrong, it is just that the odd error is creeping in. I think this is partly down to the fact that the defence has not been as settled as it was last season, and there have been more errors creeping into the defence as well, maybe still reeling from the Play-off Final.
This article is in no way a criticism of Grant, in fact, it is a staunch defence of this fan of the club. Derby fans need to realise what they have got in the shape of Grant, and need to stick by him, and I keep reading quotes about how Derby need a new commanding goalkeeper if they reach the Premier League, but I think Grant is easily capable, and one of the main reasons for the amount of clean sheets Derby keep. The problem at the back for Derby seems to be, if they concede one goal, they will concede two, but they do not ship goals in, they just seem to lose confidence if one goes in. Grant is also a good mentor for the younger keepers Derby have, and can pass on his experience, and I am sure if you ask any of the Derby defenders if they feel a lot safer knowing it is Grant behind them, then the answer would be a resounding yes!