LEE Grant will look to shut out old pal, former team mate and Queen’s Park Rangers’ dangerman Charlie Austin in the Championship play-off final.
Grant, Derby County’s number one, faces Rangers top scorer Austin at Wembley on Saturday.
The pair featured prominently in the same Burnley side last season and shared player-of-the-year awards 12 months ago.
Grant was ever-present for the Clarets, Austin hit 28 goals.
“Charlie’s a top man, and a really good player,” said Grant.
“He works hard day in, day out, and I’m sure he will be looking to do that on Saturday.
“It will be nice to pit my wits against him and hopefully come away on the right end of the result.”
Looking back to when they were team mates last season, Grant said: “I think I got the supporters’ player-of-the-year award and Charlie got the club award.
“When you have a striker who scored as many goals as he did last season, and played as well as he did, he was probably a little hard done by not to collect all of the awards.
“Charlie has carried that form into this season with Rangers, in the most part, but we will look to stifle his talent this weekend.”
Austin has scored 20 goals for Rangers including five in his last five games.
His double sank Wigan Athletic in the second leg of Rangers’ play-off semi-final at Loftus Road.
“We know we’ve got to keep an eye on Charlie at all times,” said Grant.
“Goalscorers can be out of the game and then pop up with the winner, and grab all the headlines.
“From the first minute to the last minute, he commands respect, but hopefully we will keep him quiet.”
Grant was part of Derby’s squad the last time the club reached the play-offs in 2007, but he was at Wembley only as a spectator.
Stephen Bywater was Rams first-choice goalkeeper on that occasion and Lee Camp was on the bench.
Grant is very much involved this time.
He has been ever-present this season and a key figure in the team finishing third in the Championship and reaching Wembley.
“My circumstances are different this time, just a bit,” said Grant.
“Back in 2007, I had already agreed to go and sign for Sheffield Wednesday, so it was very diferent in that respect, although it was a pleasure to be a part of the day.
“I had not played as many games as I would have liked that season, which was frustrating, but I still had a great relationship with nearly all of the guys, and still do to this day.
“So I was at Wembley cheering them on and it ended up being a fantastic day.
“Hopefully there will be some similar feelings at the end of Satuday’s game.”
Asked if the 2007 Wembley final was a bitter-sweet moment for him, Grant said: “Not really because I was looking forward to the opportunity of leaving the club.
“It felt like I needed to leave Derby County to progress my career.
“In all honesty I was already preparing for life away from Derby County.
“I was really excited to have the opportunity to go and play at Sheffield Wednesday, which I did do for three years uninterrupted and that was probably the making of me.
“So the irony of coming back to Derby this season and the club reaching the play-off final is fantastic.
“It would be lovely to spend this summer thinking about and preparing for a Premier League campaign. That is the aim.”