Jorge Grant: The name, the passion and the attributes behind Hearts' latest signing
Upon hearing the name “Jorge”, it’s instinctive to envisage some Portuguese maverick-type with long hair, fancy footwork and a Playboy lifestyle.
Jorge Grant’s feet can certainly entertain but Hearts are not into pursuing foreign socialites these days. They have signed a 27-year-old diligent English midfielder whose unusual name will be on supporters’ lips if he ignites at Tynecastle Park next season.
He arrived at the club’s training base in southern Spain late on Sunday night after Peterborough United agreed to sell him for an undisclosed fee following relegation from the English Championship. Little is known about Grant in Scotland right now. Hearts fans might well enjoy what they see and hear over the coming months.
Firstly, “Jorge” is pronounced as a traditionally-British “George” rather than a continental “Horrhay”. He addressed the issue of how to say his name whilst at former club Lincoln City, where it became a changing-room joke.
“If I’m having a good day at training and training well, then I’m ‘Horrhay’. A bit of sauce, you know? If I’m not having a good day, then I’m just normal, boring, ‘George’.”
The inference is that Grant doesn’t take himself overly seriously and enjoys a giggle when appropriate. Those who know him attest that furthering his football career is always a priority, hence a desire to explore the Hearts option and make the biggest move of his life so far.
He is an attack-minded midfielder with a penchant for scoring goals, predominantly right-footed but more than capable with his left. Lincoln gave him a left-sided midfield berth with the freedom to go forward and were duly rewarded during his two years there.
Grant claimed 17 goals and 13 assists with the English League One club the season before last, although it should be noted that 12 of those goals came via the penalty spot. Peterborough triggered a clause in his contract on the back of those stats to sign him for just over £100,000 last summer.
The release fee in his United deal was a sizeable £750,000 but Hearts are paying significantly less than that figure. Peterborough knew they could not hold out for the full amount if they genuinely wanted to sell.
Grant tends to perform best coming in from the left or right side without being a traditional winger who hugs the touchline. He is more akin to an old-fashioned inside forward who can roam into a No.10 position behind the striker.
He particularly enjoys ghosting in on the blind side of defenders when the ball is on the opposite side or delivered into the penalty area. Thriving in similar areas to the current Hearts talisman Barrie McKay, Grant is adept at both finishing and creating. He is also a bit of a penalty and set-piece expert.
He has spoken previously about versatility and developing a maturity in his early 20s as the reality of senior professional football hit home.
“I can play a variety of positions. I can play midfield, I can play wide left or as a No.10. I’m quite technical, I play a lot of through balls and try to get assists and goals. I enjoy taking free-kicks as well.
“The defensive side of my game probably wasn’t there from a young age, but in the last two or three years, it has come on a lot. I probably was a flair player at 21 or 22, but I didn’t do as much as I should have off the ball.
“Over the last few years, especially on the left of a 4-4-1-1, you have to do your defensive duties and if you don’t, you’re not in the team.”
Born in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Grant joined the Nike Football Academy aged 17 after being released by Reading. He stood out on the first trial day and immediately signed to begin an enjoyable eight-month spell at Nike’s Loughborough University base.
Several fruitless trials with English league clubs followed until Nottingham Forest offered a contract in summer 2014. During the following five years, he was loaned to Notts County twice, Luton Town and Mansfield.
The second spell at Notts County in 2017/18 saw Grant score 19 goals and claim nine assists in League Two as his passion and attacking drive improved. That captured the attention of Danny Cowley, who signed him for Lincoln a year later and spoke enthusiastically about the stats behind his new recruit.
“He’s got fantastic numbers. When you consider the players who play in his position, you look at his goals scored and his goal creation and his numbers stack up significantly better than players in and around him.”
It proved an inspired piece of intuition and Lincoln fans were devastated at his departure for Peterborough last year. An opportunity to play in the Championship wasn’t something Grant could refuse at the age of 26 after spending the vast majority of his career in England’s lower divisions.
Yet Peterborough did not quite see the end product Notts County and Lincoln enjoyed. United often deployed him as a deeper central midfielder last season and he managed just two goals and three assists in a struggling team. Sources in Cambridgeshire describe him as “hard-working and technically good without being a standout at Posh”.
Relegation was confirmed last month and that signalled the end of Grant’s time at London Road. Other English clubs were interested but the player has decided to spend the next phase of his career in maroon.
The name doesn’t yet precede him in Scotland, however that could well change if he rediscovers the old “Horrhay” panache at Hearts.