Grant tips Marshall to play key role

CHRIS LAKEY Peter Grant secured his number one transfer target of the summer yesterday - and reckons he could be worth up to 15 points towards Norwich City's promotion challenge.


Peter Grant secured his number one transfer target of the summer yesterday - and reckons he could be worth up to 15 points towards Norwich City's promotion challenge.

The City manager finally got his man when Celtic goalkeeper David Marshall signed a three-year contract in a transfer which has cost around £1m.

It ends a chase which began last autumn and intensified when the 22-year-old came to Carrow Road for an ill-fated loan spell at the beginning of the year. Marshall played just five games before succumbing to a freak injury in the February FA Cup tie at Chelsea - but the seeds had already been sown for the move.

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“He made it known from day one that he wanted to join the club if there was an opportunity of that happening, so I think that is why I pursued it longer than I probably would have anybody else,” said Grant. “He was desperate to be here, we want him here and that combination finally got us over the line.”

The end of the chase should signal an end to the chopping and changing between the posts that saw City field five different keepers last season - and finally produce a stability that was so obviously missing in defence.

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“I think it is a vital part - the goalkeeping position in any team can maybe save you 15 points a season, that is what you are hoping your top quality goalkeepers do” said Grant. “I think you saw what he brought to the back guys, he brought that quality to us. He used the ball very quickly and enabled us to attack quickly and he had a calmness about him which I thought was very important.

“He has a massive part of his career in front of him.”

Asked if he felt Marshall would prove to be the best goalkeeper in the Championship, Grant was unequivocal in his answer.

“Yes,” he said. “I think he has the qualities to be a top goalkeeper and when we get back into the Premier League he is more than capable of playing in that.

“I feel there are not many keepers better than him anywhere and I am surprised we have got him as easily as we have.”

Ironically, Marshall was on City's payroll up until last weekend, when his original loan deal was due to have ended - and that meant Grant could block off any other clubs wishing to speak to him.

“I know a lot of people thought the deal was done and there were a lot of people asking me and I said, 'no, everything has been agreed, he's my player', because I knew people couldn't speak to him, he was contracted to me so they couldn't talk to him. He was contracted to me and they needed my permission to speak to him - I was paying his wages and that gave me the run on it. David had made it known he wanted to come to us. There was a lot of toing and froing with Celtic, but we finally got there.

“I am grateful to the club for giving me the finances to back it and I think in time to come you will see it is money well spent.”

The goalkeeping picture is much clearer now: Marshall and another new signing, Matthew Gilks, will fight it out for the number one shirt, with Joe Lewis likely to spend time on loan again following a stint with Stockport at the end of last season.

“I know David is capable of playing in the Premier League, but Matty Gilks is there and we have Joe as well,” said Grant. “It gives me an opportunity to let Joe go and play. He has been three years around the first team, but he has not played any games in that time and I have seen him grow in the short period he was at Stockport, so a year of that again will be very important. He's another top quality keeper we have as well.

“The challenge is down to them all, I can't stand still waiting on anybody so the opportunity is there and may the best man be available come August 11.”

The list Grant chooses from is unlikely to include Paul Gallacher, who now seems certain to head for pastures new after dropping down the pecking order.

“Right through the summer time, although he knows I have been interested in keepers he has been first class and I am disappointed for him as an individual.

“Hopefully something can work out for him as well. I have spoken to Paul. Paul knows the situation, I have kept him up to speed. His attitude has been fantastic, he has worked his socks off during the summer and we will see how things go for him during this period.”

Yesterday's signing takes Grant's summer dealings up to five - with Gilks, striker Jamie Cureton, midfielder Julien Brellier and defender John Otsemobor already on the payroll - with more expected soon.

“Probably not this week, probably the start of next week,” said Grant. “I am always looking to improve - maybe one definite in would say.”

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