Sheffield Wednesday have been installed by most bookmakers as second favourites for promotion from League One in the forthcoming season, and given the acquisitions that manager Alan Irvine has made over the course of the summer the expectations of the Owls supporters are likely to reflect this billing.
The excellent additions that have been made to the Wednesday squad in recent weeks, particularly in the attacking third, have been well documented, but the retention of some key players could be just as important, not least the goalkeeper.
Lee Grant has established himself as the Owls number one ever since joining the club having left Derby County back in the summer of 2007.
Wednesday also signed young Spurs goalkeeper Rob Burch that summer, and although both were vying for the first team spot at that time Grant wasted no time in making the position his own and has not looked back since.
Since moving to Hillsborough, Grant has improved year on year, gaining praise from team mates, fans and journalists alike. His value to the team should not be underestimated and is highlighted by the fact that his fellow Wednesday players have voted him as the player’s player of the year for the past three seasons.
The 27-year-old's consistent fine form has attracted a number of suitors recently, with speculation linking him with a move to Burnley last season when ex-Owls manager Brian Laws took the reigns at Turf Moor.
More recently, Scottish giants Celtic have been linked with the keeper.
While Grant almost certainly has the ability to play at a higher level, most Wednesday fans will hope that any such speculation doesn’t come to fruition and the club can fend off any future interest in the player.
The keeper expressed his commitment to the cause at the end of last season, stating that it is up to the players to put the disappointment of relegation behind them by helping the club to promotion in 2010/11.
It is important for the back four to have a familiar, experienced goalkeeper behind them and this was highlighted when the Owls were promoted from this level back in 2004/05.
David Lucas played a key role in the Owls success that season with solid, consistent displays and the team struggled somewhat in the few games that he missed through injury.
Grant is currently sidelined as he recuperates following a shoulder injury, but it is hoped that he will be fit for the start of the new season. In his absence, young academy products Richard O’Donnell and Arron Jameson have been getting the chance to show their worth in the pre-season warm-up matches.
The club have high hopes for both youngsters, but it would be a big ask for either of them to step straight into the number one role should Grant move on during the remainder of the transfer window given the pressure of expectation at the club during the forthcoming campaign.
Neither have played a competitive first team match for the club, and both would surely benefit from learning their trade alongside Grant while possibly picking up experience in the Football League Trophy competition.
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