This summer is set to bring many goalkeeping department changes for the Rams, who already have made changes to the specialist position.
Last week the deal re-signing Lee Grant on a three-year contract was confirmed by the club and, in addition to that, Frank Fielding and Adam Legzdins were both made available for transfer.
Aged 30, Grant seems like his career is just beginning to peak. The shot-stopper won Burnley’s player of the year, ahead of striker Charlie Austin, who bagged 28 goals, which speaks volumes as to what a season the former England Under-21 international has had. It’s clear that Grant will arrive as the first-choice goalkeeper. During his last spell at Derby he didn’t really nail down regular starts with Billy Davies allowing the ‘keeper to move on. Since leaving Pride Park the 30-year-old has firmly established himself as a regular in the division, both with Sheffield Wednesday and, more recently, Burnley. For me, Grant’s a fantastic signing and will hopefully be the steady pair of hands needed in between the sticks.
Both Fielding and Legzdins had spells in the side during the season with neither being particularly convincing. It is an area which has cost Derby a fair few points on the way, for instance Legzdins’ hesitance was costly in conceding the goal against Crystal Palace at home and Fielding’s failure to hold onto a free-kick at Middlesbrough presented Boro with the chance to score. Being better at collecting and commanding balls into the box has also been sighted as an improvement for the pair. A year ago I’d have firmly said that Fielding should be the club’s number 1 for a long time to come but now I feel he’s not produced the same form this season and, with Grant available, I see it as a good transfer move by Derby.
Saul Deeney is expected to be the number two, which, for me, is a good decision. Firstly, looking at Grant’s record since leaving the Rams it’s clear he rarely misses matches. Secondly, by using ex-Brewer Deeney as back-up seems a sensible decision in terms of the club’s wage bill. Keeping either or even both of Fielding and Legzdins would take quite a chunk out of the wage bill, which could be used more sufficiently in other areas of the squad. It’s quite likely that Deeney is one of the lower earners of the current crop and for a number two is it really necessary to use up, what could be, valuable funds? I don’t think so, particularly given the few games they play. Like manager Nigel Clough has said, I’m pretty sure it’s not too difficult to go out and get a loanee should Grant be out of the team for whatever reason: “Saul understands that he might play the odd game but also if we needed a keeper in for six or eight games we would bring one in on a loan.” A lot of this is assuming both Fielding and Legzdins leave, I don’t think it’ll be too hard for them to find clubs but they’re both entering the final year of their Derby contracts so don’t expect big fees.
A lot of people are pretty critical of the Norther Irishman, personally I’ve not really made my mind up yet despite him joining the club back in 2009. Since joining he’s made just three appearances and been plagued by injuries, which makes it pretty tough to judge him. However he does have one pretty poignant thing to shout about on his CV – a clean sheet against Manchester United with Burton back in 2006. His Rams debut was pretty memorable, he replaced an injured Stephen Bywater as a sub and was sent off in less than half an hour of coming onto the pitch thus meaning it was Robbie Savage’s turn to give life between the sticks a go!
Last week, the Derby Telegraph also reported a couple of other adjustments to the goalkeeping department. Mats Morch will be the Under-21s’ goalkeeper while Ross Atkins, who’s still on Derby’s books after loan spells with Burton Albion, will be sent out on loan after a deal is concluded with Derby. Conference side Alfreton Town was sighted as a possible loan destination for Atkins.