Watford striker Andre Gray insists Record & Pound; 18m fee doesn’t bother him and aims to replicate Jamie Vardy
Andre Gray is the £18 million striker who was once flogged to pay off the arrears on his £200-a-week wages.
Five years and worlds apart from his roots as a part-timer at Hinckley United, Watford‘s record signing will make his debut against Liverpool today, possibly from the bench.
Following the Jamie Vardy pathway from non-league drifter to Premier League striker, Gray insists he is unfazed by the astronomical fee the Hornets have shelled out to lure him away from Burnley.
He said: “I’d love to score the 25 goals he did in a season and win the title as well, but every year I hope to get better and score more.
“I’m still learning, I’m still fairly raw and I need to tweak certain things in my game. It’s not going to be easy and the Premier League is difficult, but everywhere I’ve been in my career I’ve wanted to succeed and I’ve managed to do that.”
Gray’s value has doubled in two years since he moved to Turf Moor from Brentford two years ago and fired the Clarets to the Championship title.
And although last season was disrupted by a four-match ban for historic tweets when his career was shrouded in anonymity, he still managed to score nine in 26 starts as Burnley stayed up comfortably.
Gray said: “The size of the fee doesn’t bother me – people were asking how Burnley had paid £9m for a player in the Championship, and the next thing we knew, I was top scorer, Football League player of the year and we won the Championship.
“But I never dreamed of this happening when I was at Hinckley and they sold me for £30,000 – and some of that went to me because they hadn’t paid my wages.
“They were in a bit of financial trouble at the time, so the fee helped them out. I was only on £200 a week, but I was flying around getting myself into trouble here and there.
“That was just a young stage of my life, but luckily the Luton situation came around at just the right time and I haven’t looked back.”
Gray’s decision to join the Hatters’ arch-rivals has not gone down well among the knuckle-scraping fringes at Kenilworth Road, but he regards his stint at Luton as a definitive sliding doors moment.
He had already started going to the gym on his days off, trying to “be a step ahead of everyone” with ambitions to climb the ladder, when another non-league outfit came in for him.
“I was about to go to Tamworth at the time, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “Luckily Hinckley had an FA Cup run, we played against Luton and I did OK against them, and they came back for me the next day.
“I had been relying on money that wasn’t coming in to survive, and I learned a lot, but I got my move and I got my wages from Hinckley – although it took a month or two.
“It’s a place I’ve never wanted to go back to, and hopefully I won’t have to now.”
At face value, joining a club who finished fourth from bottom of the Premier League last season, one place below Burnley, does not seem like an obvious move.
But Gray, whose girlfriend is Little Mix pop star Leigh-Anne Pinnock, claimed: “I had a fantastic time at Burnley, but I feel like I’d done my job there.
“Watford made me feel wanted because they kept coming back and that means a lot to players.
“This is the right challenge for me. I haven’t come here to get relegated, and we’re not here to fight relegation. That hasn’t even crossed my mind.”
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