AN­DRE GRAY

Australian Four Four Two - - GOING FOR GOLD -

PO­SI­TION

AGE

Fans have voted you the Football League’s best player. Con­grat­u­la­tions! Thanks very much. I’m buzzing about that. It’s a great hon­our, and I didn’t ex­pect it. You’ve scored goals con­sis­tently ever since you joined Burn­ley from Brent­ford back in Au­gust. How have you rated your sea­son? I’ve been pleased so far – it’s been go­ing great for me and the team. I knew I could score goals in this league be­cause I did it last year with Brent­ford, but this has been my best sea­son so far. I scored 30 at Lu­ton but that was in the Con­fer­ence. To score more than 20 goals in the Cham­pi­onship has been bril­liant. But the main aim is still to get pro­moted. Be­fore Burn­ley made their move for you, Brent­ford re­jected a bid from Hull and then Bris­tol City had an of­fer ac­cepted. That must have been a crazy month for you... It was quite dif­fi­cult – I’d never been in that sit­u­a­tion be­fore. I felt it was the right time to leave Brent­ford but I wasn’t go­ing to leave un­less it was to progress and fight for the ti­tle. It was a choice be­tween a team who had just been pro­moted [Bris­tol City] and a team who had just been rel­e­gated from the Premier League [Burn­ley] – it was easy in the end. Two years ago I was fight­ing at the top of the Con­fer­ence with Lu­ton; now I’m here fight­ing to go into the Premier League. It’s been a whirl­wind. In join­ing Burn­ley you had to fol­low in the foot­steps of Danny Ings, while the club had dou­bled their pre­vi­ous trans­fer record to sign you. Did you feel any pres­sure? No, I didn’t see the fee as pres­sure. Ings’ boots were pretty big ones to fill but I didn’t come here think­ing that I had to re­place Danny. I’m a dif­fer­ent player to him.

At the very start of your ca­reer you were re­leased by Wolves and then Shrews­bury. How tough was that as a young­ster? The Wolves one was tough. Shrews­bury was ex­pected and I took the blame for it. That was me not be­ing in the right mind­set. I didn’t work hard enough there – I’ll openly ad­mit that. I lost my grandad just af­ter I left Wolves and I lost my fo­cus for a while.

What was it like drop­ping into non-league football with Hinck­ley United?

I was on more money at Hinck­ley than as a first-year pro­fes­sional at Shrews­bury, so in my mind at the time it was pro­gres­sion, even though it ac­tu­ally wasn’t. In the se­cond year there I was on the sub­sti­tutes’ bench and re­al­ity started to kick in. I wasn’t hav­ing to get up in the morn­ing be­cause we were part-time, and ev­ery­one wants to get up in the morn­ing and do some­thing. It was then that I started to re­alise what I wanted to do with my life. I got my head down and started do­ing well.

How much did be­ing stabbed out­side a night­club in 2011 in­flu­ence you as well, given the scar it left on your face?

I don’t re­ally no­tice the scar any more. But look­ing back at how my life used to be, that’s what drives me on to­day, so that I don’t have to be in that sit­u­a­tion ever again. Things could have gone one way or the other af­ter that hap­pened, but I re­alised I couldn’t do any­thing about it. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it made me stronger as a per­son. I had to get my act to­gether. Jamie Vardy and Char­lie Austin have both pro­gressed from non-league to the top flight in re­cent years, with Vardy earn­ing Eng­land hon­ours as well. Do you think you could do well in the Premier League, too? I don’t see why not. I be­lieve I can step up and com­pete in that league, but only time will tell. It helps ev­ery­one to see how well peo­ple like Vardy and Austin have done. They’ve set the bar high for the boys in non-league now.

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