UNKNOWINGLY placed in the middle of a fire sale at financially-troubled Birmingham City – there is a certain irony to Jonathan Grounds seeking refuge at Bolton Wanderers.

The full-back has signed on a season-long deal at the University of Bolton Stadium after being frozen out by Garry Monk – the Blues manager in a hurry to chop his budget and comply with Financial Fair Play rules.

Wanderers have sampled such hardships in the recent past. But the arrival of the 30-year-old Championship stalwart to add competition for Andy Taylor in the left-back berth was another positive sign that this ship is steadying.

Grounds – a player with nearly 350 Football League games under his belt – found his season cut short in February when he sustained a knee ligament injury in a 3-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday.

A month later Blues boss Steve Cotterill was replaced by Monk, and the defender was able to play just once under the new boss before being cut adrift in the summer.

The writing was on the wall for the former Middlesbrough man when he was not granted a squad number at St Andrew’s – but tonight he could be plunged straight into the first team reckoning in the Carabao Cup against Leeds United.

“It has been tough. I had a difficult back end to last season with an injury I had and never really got going again last year,” he said. “The aim was to go into pre-season and really start afresh, but I never really got that opportunity.

“It took longer than I’d have like but six weeks on I have got that opportunity to start again.

“It has been a frustrating pre-season all the way through, so one of the main things for me was getting back involved with a first team and being ready to go.

“I know where I’m at physically because of the amount of training I have done but I’m looking forward to getting back involved with the group and proving myself.

“I thought I was going to be here a little earlier than I was – but I’m really pleased to be here.”

Grounds is no stranger to the Championship, having played exactly 200 games in the division for Middlesbrough and Birmingham, and hopes to lend more experience to a back line which has made an encouraging start to the season.

“I spoke to the manager quite a lot over the last couple of days,” he said. “He’s been telling me things about the lads, the club and the area. It convinced me to come up here.

“It’s always nice to have a manager who wants you.

“The manager said that was one of the positions he was trying to strengthen. He only had one player who could play there. Hopefully I can come in, do what I need to do, show everybody what I am about and get as many games as I can.

“I’m a defender first and foremost, someone who likes to head and tackle, but I’ve been brought up to play good football.

“I have got experience. You build that knowledge of players and teams you come up against in the Championship. It’s a tough league and it gets tougher every year.

“But the more seasons you play here, you get that little bit more comfortable with the physicality and get to know it more.

“Looking at the results the boys have had it has been really encouraging. Hopefully I can help them out with a few more over the next couple of weeks.”

Grounds, born in Thornaby-on-Tees, joins a large contingent of North East players on the Wanderers books.

He played in the same Middlesbrough side as Andy Taylor – the man he will be challenging for the left-back spot – and David Wheater in his early days as a professional at the Riverside Stadium.

And he is confident with a few familiar faces around that he can settle quickly at Bolton.

“I haven’t really spoken to them about it, but knowing their character this will be a good place to come and play football,” he told the club “I know those two from the Middlesbrough youth team days and then a couple of years where we were in the first team.

“I know a couple of other lads from being at Birmingham too – Jason Lowe and Clayton Donaldson. Knowing their character I knew it would be a good environment to play and a good dressing room to come into.”