Jurgen Klopp has been suggesting recently that the return to fitness of Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is like Liverpool having two new signings. Well, Bobby Grant wasn’t even injured, but he seems like a new man for Wrexham.
I’ll admit to conflicting feelings about Grant by the end of last season. He seemed to become a scapegoat for some fans as our promotion push hit the rocks, which was totally unfair. It all seemed to come to a head at Halifax on Easter Monday. By the end of the games, the complaints about his wayward shooting were audible, and they continued on social media.
He did send some wild efforts into the Halifax fans behind the goal, but he didn’t deserve to be slated for that. In a shot-shy side, he was the one who kept looking for opportunities to pull the trigger. That sounds like something he should be applauded for. Fans beseech their players to show a bit more effort, so when a striker is clearly desperate to hit the net and get the goal that could salvage our season, shouldn’t he be applauded?
Anyway, the critics had very short memories. Grant had been our best player in the first half, and drew two magnificent saves from the Halifax goalkeeper.
Having said all that, there was no doubt that Grant didn’t live up to his billing after being shoved out of Fleetwood by Joey Barton (by the way, that’s another tick in the positive column: if he got under Barton’s skin he deserves a medal!) On paper he was a superb signing, a player with Football League pedigree who shouldn’t be schlepping around at our level.
He wasn’t helped by Sam Ricketts immediately jumping ship, but he started brightly only to fade, his trademark driving runs inside from the flank becoming predictable and merely taking him into the crowd. He wasn’t helped by an unfortunate propensity for hitting the woodwork in away games!
To be honest, I assumed he’d be one of the players Bryan Hughes would release in order to free up space in the wage budget for new strikers.
Yet he remained, and last Saturday he was sensational! His first half showing was perhaps more notable for his endeavour than his creativity. However, he tracked back tirelessly to cover the Barrow left back’s runs, even if one of his challenges did concede the free kick which they scored from.
However, the spark of rebirth, both for Grant and the team, came in the opening three minutes of the second half. Grant was a livewire, chasing everywhere and hurting the Barrow defence. In that short space of time he took the game to the visitors, driving immediately past his man, then winning a corner with some aggressive wing play, and from that earning the free kick that led to our equalizer.
When he scored the winner it felt so appropriate, but he wasn’t finished yet. His flair for the unexpected suddenly returned as he nearly came up with the most unorthodox improvised assist, lunging at hip height to prod the bouncing ball through for Mark Harris. My co-commentator, James Harrison, nailed it when he called it a Karate Kid pass!
Then, he hit the bar with a shot from his own half, even though he was falling backwards! It was a remarkable strike, but it wouldn’t have counted because he’d charged the ball down with his hand. That doesn’t matter though. Grant appears to have rediscovered his audacity; hopefully he’ll turn out to be the new signing who never went away!