Grounds hero

Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 18 October 2013

JONATHAN Grounds will line up against Carlisle for the 10th time as a centre-back.

But the 25 year old admits he still doesn’t feel entirely at home in the middle — particularly with new language barriers to contend with.

The former Middlesbrough prospect has been the constant in Athletic’s back line. Normally paired with James Tarkowski in the middle, Athletic have conceded an average of one goal per game across the eight with the duo present.

Evidence that a defensive understanding is growing can be seen in Athletic’s defence keeping a first clean sheet of the season in last week’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory at Preston.

And that was despite Tarkowski retiring at half-time, having felt severely ill right through the opening 45 minutes at Deepdale.

“I think we have been doing quite well,” said Grounds. “Nobody has been tearing us apart or anything. We play off each other. Tarky can attack things quite well and I sort of cover around him. We also talk to our full-backs and the midfield in front to help us out a bit.”

During Tarkowski’s enforced absence, Grounds has been spared the job of dealing with a cosmopolitan back-line featuring a Swiss-Angolan — Genseric Kusunga — and an Italian, Matteo Lanzoni, neither of whom has strong English.

“It was speaking in Chinese whispers: I was going through Matteo to get something to Kusunga. You get around it with hand signals — and the odd scream.”

Manager Lee Johnson has plenty of faith in Grounds’ ability. The player also shares his boss’s belief that despite the Cumbrians’ good form, Athletic could win tomorrow.

“Carlisle are playing well, but we are on the back of two good results against Orient and Preston and we just have to carry that into the games we now have.”