DERBY County’s number one Lee Grant will tonight look to shut out the club that played a huge role in his development as a goalkeeper.
Grant lines up for the 402nd appearance of his career when the Rams face Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough (7.45pm).
One hundred and forty five of those games came during three years with Wednesday.
Grant was searching for regular first-team football when he left Derby and signed for the South Yorkshire club in 2007.
He says he owes Wednesday for shaping him into the keeper he is today but his one thought tonight will be to help Derby collect more points to further cement their place in the Championship’s top six.
“Those three years at Sheffield Wednesday were without a doubt the most important in my career in the sense it was a huge step for me to leave the club I loved, Derby,” said Grant.
“I had been at Derby from the age of 16 to 24 and it was difficult to leave, but at the same time I knew I had to.
“I am very thankful to Sheffield Wednesday for three really good years and I think it helped me establish myself and helped me understand what is required to play week in, week out in this division.
“I was proud of my record there. I played nearly three years without missing a game and had a really good relationship with the fans and the staff, and that remained once I had left.
“I have a lot of respect for the club but I would certainly enjoy three points tonight.”
Grant expects a tough game.
Wednesday’s 3-0 home defeat by Wigan Athletic last time out was their first in
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nine matches. The Owls had won four and drawn four of the previous eight.
“I am not surprised they have been in good form,” said Grant.
“I know their manager Stuart Gray from his time at Burnley when I was there. He is a top coach and a top guy to go with it. I’m not surprised he has got them going. It will be a really good test for us.”
Derby are unbeaten in five matches and produced a determined second-half display to keep a clean sheet against Queen’s Park Rangers in their last game.
Grant praised the performance of the players in front of him.
“That is the type of performance we are going to need between now and the end of the season to sustain a top-six spot,” said the 31-year-old.
Derby beat Wednesday 3-0 at home in November and a win tonight would lift them to third, two points behind Burnley in second place.
Head coach Steve McClaren will not be drawn on Derby’s position in the table and their promotion hopes.
“There are still 16 games to go,” he said. “It’s about staying focused. We have got where we are through hard work and it will take hard work to keep us there.
“Sheffield Wednesday will be tough, every game is a difficult game.
“They were on a good unbeaten run until they lost to Wigan.
“I watched the game against Wigan and it was never a 3-0. I’m not sure how they lost. They had plenty of chances and took the game to Wigan. We expect that from them again.
“Stuart Gray has done a great job. Under him they have steadied the ship and have been getting results, and getting results through good organisation. They have also signed good loan players.
“They will also be boosted by the knowledge that they have an FA Cup game against Charlton coming up and if they get through that there will be a Sheffield derby in the quarter final for a place in the semi-final. They must be absolutely buzzing about that. Hopefully they will have one eye on that and not our game.”
Wednesday’s cup tie against Charlton was postponed on Saturday because the Hillsborough pitch was waterlogged.
Wednesday expect tonight’s game to go ahead.
“We’ve not had any rain for the last couple of days,” said Gray.
“The pitch will be a bit soft underfoot. The groundstaff have had their work cut out, with the weather we’ve had.
“We can’t afford another deluge but I’m sure the game will be fine. I have every confidence it will go ahead, and so has the groundsman.”
Asked if he has any plans to change given the possible conditions, McClaren joked: “We have trained in flippers just in case. We will be taking our trunks and some of the players their armbands because they can’t swim!
“No, we hope it (the pitch) will dry out.
“The pitch at Hillsborough is normally good. It is a big pitch and so we will have to get the ball down and play football, and play as we normally do.
“We need to be right and as much as we respect the opponent, it is about what we do that counts.”