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Lee's been Grant-ed a dream move



Former Derby County goalkeeper Lee Grant has joined Premier League giants Manchester United on a two-year deal, in what has been seen as one of the surprise moves of the transfer window so far.


The fee is a reported £1.5m for the stopper, who has limited Premier League experience, having made only 31 appearances for Stoke City in the top-flight, spending the rest of his 16-year career in the Championship and League One.


United have moved for Grant, 35, as a direct replacement for outgoing third-choice goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, who has moved to West Bromwich Albion after spending last season on loan at city rivals Aston Villa.


Grant will unlikely make many first-team appearances at Old Trafford, with David De Gea and Sergio Romero ahead of him in the pecking order, but few could begrudge Grant the opportunity to train at Carrington and be around a world class set-up at 35 years old.


Talking points: Grant's rise to the top


So how did Grant, a 35-year-old veteran goalkeeper go from academy graduate at Derby County in 2002, to signing for one of the biggest football clubs in the world in 2018?


Grant started out his career as a 15-year-old schoolboy at Watford in 1998, before being released from the Hornets in 2000.


Undeterred by Watford's lack of belief in his ability, Grant moved to Derby County academy in 2000 to continue his footballing development.


After spending two years as a trainee with the Rams, Grant made his first-team debut for Derby at 19 years of age, against Burnley in September 2002, coming on for the injured Andy Oakes.


After breaking into the first team at Derby aged just 19, Grant went on to make 74 appearances for the Rams from 2002 to 2007, in between loan spells at Burnley - whom he would later return to - and Oldham Athletic.


During his first season in the first team picture, Grant went on to make 29 appearances, displacing regular first-choice keeper Andy Oakes in the process.


Grant showed a lot of promise early in his career, appearing for England at all youth levels up to the under-21s, and went onto make a further 36 appearances for Derby in the 2003/04 season.


Following his initial success in the Derby side, Grant lost his place in the team at the beginning 2004/05 Championship season to another academy graduate and future Derby number one, Lee Camp.


Under George Burley, Phil Brown and Billy Davies, Grant struggled to make further impact at Pride Park, acting as understudy to Lee Camp and eventually Stephen Bywater, only making nine first team appearances in three seasons.


After falling down the pecking order at Pride Park, Grant made his first permanent move away from Pride Park, joining Sheffield Wednesday in 2007.


This proved to be the catalyst for Grant to really establish himself as one of the best goalkeepers outside the top-flight.


Spending three full seasons at Hillsborough, Grant went onto make 145 appearances for the Owls in all competitions, winning multiple Player of the Month awards along the way, and establishing himself as a firm fans' favourite.


Sheffield Wednesday manager Brian Laws said of Grant in January 2008: "He's probably been the most outstanding keeper in the league in terms of current form", showing how highly Laws and the Owls rated him.


Following his success at Wednesday, Grants stock was soaring, and in the summer of 2010 a return to former loan club Burnley for £1m beckoned.


Grant was signed as competition for Brian Jensen, linking up with former boss Brian Laws, who managed him at Sheffield Wednesday.


Grant again managed to establish himself as the first-choice goalkeeper at Turf Moor, making 126 appearances in all competitions, and winning the Clarets' Player of the Season award in 2013.

 

A return to Derby County beckoned for Grant at the beginning of the 2013/14 season, with Nigel Clough looking to bring in a regular stopper after losing Frank Fielding to Bristol City and only having youngster Adam Legzdins at his disposal.


Grant's connections with the club bought him back to the area, and made it very easy for him to settle in again at Pride Park.


It was clear to see that spending time away from the club and establishing himself as a first team regular had benefited him; this showed in his performances, helping Derby year-after-year compete for play-off places in the Championship.


Two more seasons and 50 league games later and Grant again found himself playing second fiddle, this time to ex-England goalkeeper Scott Carson, who was bought in by Paul Clement to give Grant competition.


His time at Pride Park, was again coming to an end, with no regular first-team football, the 33-year-old knew he needed to leave the club at such a vital point of his career.


The move Grant got was another surprise move in his long career, one that nobody really saw coming, even Lee Grant himself, when he joined then Premier League side Stoke City on an initial six-month loan as cover for the injured ex-Derby loanee Jack Butland.


The loan was converted into a permanent deal in January 2017 after Grant impressed whilst making his Premier League debut, and eventually went on to win Stoke City's Player of the Year award.


Grant first caught the eye of Jose Mourinho and Manchester United when he put in a man-of-the-match display at Old Trafford in October 2016, to help Stoke secure their first point at Old Trafford since 1980.


Grant found first-team opportunities more limited when England international Butland returned from injury, and played deputy to him for most of the 2017/18 season, making just three Premier League appearances before heading off to Old Trafford for a dream move to Manchester United.


A shock move for some, but the reality is Grant will be third-choice goalkeeper at Old Trafford, but a testament to his character and work rate, Grant is still determined to work hard and learn, aged 35.


"Moving to Manchester United has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember," Grant said.


"This was an opportunity that I couldn't let pass and I'm thrilled to become a part of such a historic club.


"I've enjoyed every moment of my career so far and I'm now ready to continue learning and improving alongside some of the best players in the game.


"But at the same time, I intend to use my experience to help the team whenever possible."


There isn't the sense of hype and expectation around Lee Grants transfer, as there usually is with Manchester United signings, but one thing is for sure: they have signed a very solid, experienced pro, one that will serve them well for the next two years.

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