Lee Grant should be Burnley’s player of the year this season, writes James Bird.
I’m almost tempted to stop writing straight after that. The reasons why should be obvious. Yes, Charlie Austin has scored a lot of goals but he’s been largely quiet since injury after Christmas while Grant has been phenomenal between the sticks all year long. In more games than I care to remember Grant has stood on his head to keep the team in games. When Peterborough United visited Turf Moor he kept us in the game for the first half an hour with save after save. He has 11 clean sheets so far this term and that is despite having what was arguably the leakiest defence in the league in front of him to start the season.
Grant has been a divisive player so far in his time at Turf Moor with fans either loving him or hating him but it would appear that the tide has begun to turn this season with fewer fans calling for Brian Jensen to start, no doubt in part to Jensen’s disastrous error in the FA Cup at Oakwell. It is likely that the presence of Jensen at the club was a catalyst for much of the abuse directed at Lee Grant. Jensen will undoubtedly always be a club legend for his involvement in the promotion season but there should be no room for sentiment when it comes to who gets the nod between the posts.
I was always a great admirer of Grant during his time at Sheffield Wednesday. I always believed he and Julian Speroni were the best Championship keepers at the time but he did disappoint a little early in his Turf Moor career, in particular his tendency to parry (something that Jensen is also often guilty of) and the infrequency with which he would collect crosses. However, his distribution was a joy to behold after years of watching a keeper so heavily reliant on one foot as Jensen is. While Grant still often parries, he seems to do it with better rebound control – keeping the ball to the wider angles and though he rarely catches crosses he will now often punch them clear of danger.
This year has been a sparse one for player of the year contenders. Dean Marney has been good at times but the Clarets midfield as a whole has been inconsistent – ruling him out. Kieran Trippier has had a much quieter season than last year, while Jason Shackell required a few months to really settle at the club and start playing good football. This only really leaves Charlie Austin as a rival to Lee Grant and while his goal haul has been spectacular this season, he only has five goals in 16 games in 2013, a disappointing return compared to normal service. Austin has lacked the consistency of Grant to be fully deserving of a player of the year award and that’s why the oft under-appreciated stopper deserves the recognition for his solid year.
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