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"We want to finish as high as we can in the league": Pohang Steelers' Alex Grant

Pohang Steelers Alex Grant Interview

Pohang Steelers defender Alex Grant says that this Sunday's K League 1 Round 24 match with Incheon United is like a cup final but knows that the Steelers will need results elsewhere to go their way if they are to finish in the top six this season. Pohang and Suwon Samsung Bluewings are locked on 42 points and separated by the Bluewings' superior goals scored tally meaning that nothing less than a win will do to guarantee a place in Final A.

It has been a tough season, hectic at times with double game weeks a plenty. For teams like Pohang Steelers too, there has been travel to Thailand and Japan for AFC Champions League matches to factor in. Steelers centre back Alex Grant admits that the schedule has taken its toll on the players.

"The schedule this season has been an anomaly and has been hectic and the breaks that we've had then backed up with busy schedules, have been crazy. So it's been very demanding on the players physically and mentally. All those things contribute to making it a lot tougher than what it generally is, or has been in the past. 

Pohang have been experiencing something of a renaissance under manager Kim Gi-dong, finishing fourth in 2018 and 2019 and then third in 2020 to qualify for the AFC Champions League, and making it all the way to the semifinals of the FA Cup. This year, after the heroics of Wednesday night, the Steelers have the ACL final to look forward to in November. 

But further progress in the league was always going to be difficult after the departures of key names such as Aleksandar Paločević to FC Seoul as well as Stanislav Iljutcenko and Song Min-kyu to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. But, Grant believes that if they can get through a 'cup final-like' fixture with Incheon this Sunday, then a place further up the table is well within their reach.

"We want to finish as high as we can in the league. We've got one game really, another final, I guess, against Incheon where we need to win and hope that results go our way as well so that we break into the top six. I'm a bit disappointed in the fact that we're relying on other teams because you always want to go out there and win and know that by doing so it'll get you in the best possible position in the league. Unfortunately, we don't have that luxury. When need to hope that other results go our way and then hopefully we get in the top six. And then, as we've shown over the course of the season, we can beat some of the teams in those top six positions and push higher up the table.

Grant has scored two K League goals this season, both coming in quick succession but both came in defeats, the first a 2-1 loss to East Coast Derby rivals Ulsan and the second in a 4-2 home loss to Jeju United. The 27-year-old believes he could have scored more.

"I think I probably could have a couple more going back to the Champions League and I missed an absolute sitter against Ratchaburi when we drew 0-0 - skied it over the bar from five yards out and then I've had a couple of half-chances back in the league since. I always feel like I'm a threat and I've got that physicality in the box but it's something I think I need to work on and improve. The two headers that I've got have been good goals to be fair, but the results haven't gone our way in either of those games so you don't really take too much from it. It's always good to get on the scoresheet but it really only matters if you win, doesn't it? So, it was a bit disappointing in that regard that my first goal in the K League was in a loss against Ulsan, which would have been nice if I got the winner." 

The goals have come as the result of a change in approach after Grant had taken inspiration from a European Champions League winner.

"I was watching the Premier League, Thiago Silva when he scored the other week and I was just watching his movements. In the past, I've always bolted into the box and tried to give everything and I thought maybe tomorrow I'll just take it easy and just watch the flight of the ball, watch it come in and then react off the ball rather than me going too soon and trying to score a worldy. I am always looking to change up what I do, my style, and it's always good to get on the end of one."

Pohang Steelers take on Incheon United this Sunday at 15:00 KST. The game has been selected for overseas broadcasting, details can be found here, and can be watched LIVE, for FREE and in HD on tv.kleague.com

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