By Ian Sheard
Prior to going to University, I was seeing a girl for about 18 months. However, once there it proved too difficult and we ended up splitting up. Having ‘flirted’ with a few other people at University, I returned to the once ex-girlfriend but unfortunately it didn’t feel the same. The same emotion wasn’t there and I regretted it for several reasons. If I’m honest though, I was probably with her because no one else would have me!
During pre-season I wrote a player profile for Andy Gray on reflection of his Player of the Year award in 2003, at a time when it appeared he might be re-joining the Bantams. As part of the piece I wrote, “Some City fans have recently ‘hit out’ at Gray lingering on the supposed contract offer from City, stating that he’s holding out for a better offer. Why not? Looking at it from Gray’s point of a view here was a player who gave his all for the club, as the player of the year award suggests, and scored goals.”
I could take a moment to win favour with users of certain message boards and a local newspaper site, by saying that Gray’s movement last summer and this January has served only to see him pick up a couple of pay cheques (a fairly larger one last summer in comparison to his current City deal, methinks). It would be easy to accuse him of only being at City for such motivations, and this article could serve the purpose of rallying up support for the ‘we hate Gray’ campaign. But it is important to consider a few factors before tying the flag to that post.
Gray was signed from the team down the road on a free and, apparently, at the beginning of the season, there were other clubs that were chasing his signature in addition to the Bantams. He obviously turned them down in order to try and prove his worth at a higher league team. I wonder if any of the other clubs in the running for Gray last summer staked an interest in him during the January transfer window too? Probably not many did, though I am sure there were rumours. In the end, he chose to come back to Bradford.
It may be that Gray felt as though he owed the club something, as he was forced to leave in 2004 due to the club being in administration and needing the money. Or perhaps simply observing a club on the up, in the league and cup, inspired him to want a piece of that action.
Another point to consider is that Gray is not the only footballer to return to Bradford City – and how many of those were ultimately successful on their return? Lee Duxbury, Nathan Doyle, Ian Ormondroyd, Dean Windass, Lee Sinnott, Bobby Campbell and, of course, Stuart McCall! Just to look at one example, Ian Ormondroyd. It is interesting to note that in his first season he made 87 appearances scoring 20 – one goal every four games – compared to his second spell where he made 38 appearances and scored six goals (a record of one goal in six). Stix still secured legendary status for his contribution to the promotion in 1996, and people may would argue that a one in six goal ratio is not bad. I would like to offer this example to the Gray haters.
Andy Gray’s first spell at the club saw him make 77 appearances and score 20 goals, which works out at better than one goal every four. So far this time around, he has made six starts (one sub) with no goals scored. Easy to suggest that I’m clutching at straws here in my case for Andy Gray, but if he scores two goals in his next two games then his ‘return average’ is better than Ormonroyd’s. A bit tenuous, I agree, but I do think the berating of him since his return is harsh considering this. And it’s also worth noting that James Hanson has scored seven goals in 36 appearances in the league so far, which is about one in five.
Yes, statistics are easy to use to help demonstrate a point. And some may argue that Gray’s overall effort has not been the same as that of Hanson’s. I would entirely agree, but Gray has not played football for a fair few months due to lack of opportunities at Leeds. This, coupled with his age, argues his case for rustiness further. It will be interesting to judge him on the back of completing a pre-season with us.
I do agree that Gray needs a goal and to contribute more when he is playing. But I do not think his recent form is as bad on paper as what people may suggest. It’s only food for thought, but I think that if Gray scores it could lead to a bucketful. And may just be what the club needs in that extra push for promotion.
Plus, on a personal note, I’m still on speaking terms with my ex!