Non-league grounding suits Gray

Pace and power are major facets of Championship top-scorer Andre Gray's game.

Friday, 1st April 2016, 5:23 pm
Burnley's Andre Gray is congratulated on scoring his team's first goal Photographer Dave Howarth/CameraSport Football - The Football League Sky Bet Championship - Burnley v Brighton & Hove Albion - Sunday 22nd November 2015 - Turf Moor - Burnley © CameraSport - 43 Linden Ave. Countesthorpe. Leicester. England. LE8 5PG - Tel: +44 (0) 116 277 4147 - [email protected] -

And while being blessed with jet heels is a gift of nature, Gray feels his strength comes from his time developing in non-league football.

The 24-year-old came up the football pyramid following spells with Hinckley United and Luton Town, having been released as a 13-year-old by home town club Wolves, and then Shrewsbury Town aged 18.

Having not come through a Premier League academy, he is more of a street-fighter – the type of forward Arsene Wenger laments the lack of.

And he admits his grounding was the making of him: “We have nothing to lose.

“We come up through the divisions and we’re not expected to do that well.

“You don’t really have that pressure.

“We’ve got a strong mentality, knowing that you can play ugly, because you have to when you’re in the non-league.

“You don’t go to pretty grounds, play on nice pitches, there are loads of little factors.

“I think we want it more because we can see the opportunities you can get, and how far you can go, which drives you on.

“Maybe people who have had the silver spoon don’t realise that and don’t quite appreciate it.

“Those of us that come from non-league probably do appreciate it a lot more.

“It gives you even more of a drive knowing that you can step up and do it and that anything is possible.”

The rough edges of non-league helped shape him mentally and physically, as he explained: “You get it every week, it’s normal. You get roughed and toughed.

“That’s where my aggression comes from. For me it’s the best thing I ever did, not just in football terms but in terms of life as well.”

While his withering pace causes defenders real headaches week after week, he believes a teammate is arguably quicker: “I naturally have always been quick and that’s my main attribute, but I’ve got stronger, and I’m learning the game and how to use that better.

“I’m not sure (if I’m one of the quickest players in the Championship), you’d be surprised – if anyone sees Keano (Michael Keane) run 100m, you’d be surprised what he can do.

“You always see me running in behind, and I probably seem quicker than what I actually am.

“Athletics was never for me, I don’t think I’ve ever been that quick, to go and run for England or break records, but in football terms, it helps.”