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Lee Grant aims for more Wembley success

22 May 2014

Lee Grant's Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final experience this time round will be in stark contrast to seven years ago, but the Derby County goalkeeper hopes the end result will be the same.

Grant was part of the Rams squad that last reached Wembley in 2007. However, he was a mere spectator watching from the stands as Stephen Pearson's goal gave Billy Davies' Derby a 1-0 victory over West Brom and promotion back to the top flight.

Stephen Bywater started that game while Lee Camp providing the back up on the bench. Grant had been told he was not going to be offered a new contract and he had already agreed to join Sheffield Wednesday.

But the 31-year-old is very much involved this time. He has been ever-present this season since rejoining the club from Burnley last summer and he is looking forward to the prospect of playing an active role on Saturday when Derby return to Wembley to face QPR for a place in the Barclays Premier League.

"My circumstances are different this time - just a bit," said Grant.

"Back in 2007, I had already agreed to go and sign for someone else, so it was very different in that respect. But 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 went down.

"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 Saturday's game."

Asked if it was a bitter-sweet experience for him, Grant said: "Not really, because I was looking forward to the opportunity of leaving.

"It felt like I needed to leave Derby County to progress my career. In all honesty, I was already preparing for life away from the club.

"I was really excited to have the opportunity to go and play at Sheffield Wednesday, which I did do for three years almost 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."

For that to happen, Derby will have to stop Grant's former Burnley team-mate Charlie Austin.

The two men played together with the Clarets last season, sharing the east Lancashire club's player-of-the-year award. Grant, like this season, was an ever-present, while Austin scored 28 goals.

Austin has scored 20 goals in his first season at QPR, including five in his last five games. His double against Wigan at Loftus Road last week propelled the Londoners to the final.

"Charlie's a top man and a really good player," said Grant.

"He has carried last season's form into this season with Rangers, in the most part, but we will look to stifle his talent on Saturday.

"We know we've got to keep an eye on Charlie at all times. 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.

"It will be nice to pit my wits against him and hopefully come away on the right end of the result."

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