Gray looks to cap whirlwind year with ‘dream’ goal

Facing Premier League Norwich City on Saturday is the culmination of a whirlwind year for Town striker Andre Gray, writes Mark Wood.

Just 12 months ago playing against the Hatters was the pinnacle of the 21-year-old striker’s career,

and now he’s hoping to realise a dream by scoring against a Premier League side.

He said: “This time last year testing myself against the very best was against Luton.

“Obviously now a year later it’s against a Premiership team, so it’s a massive step up for me and it will be good to see how far I’ve come in terms of playing against a Premier League team.

“To score against a Premier League side would be absolutely massive, it’s obviously one of my dreams as well, so we’ll just see how it goes.”

Town’s strikers have more than 40 goals between them, and Gray is likely to be up against former Hatters starlet Leon Barnett.

And while the Canaries should have more than enough to contain the Hatters, you never know.

“They’re obviously Premier League defenders so they should be able to deal with that,” said Gray.

“But obviously it’s about everyone on the day, how they go for it and how we do.

“It’s the FA Cup, and that’s the magic of it, so anything can happen.”

And Thursday’s press conference had finally made the encounter seem real for Gary, who said: “It didn’t (seem real) this morning until all the press are here now and Sky Sports News and stuff.

“I think it’s sinking in a bit now and I think as the days grow closer it will sink in even more.”

Gray is now no stranger to big games, having scored at Wembley in the opening moments of Town’s 2-1 play-off final defeat to York City last season.

But this will be the next biggest occasion after that for him, as Gray said: “I think Wembley will probably always be there in terms of the biggest because of the importance of it.

“Obviously the FA Cup is important, but the realism of it is it there’s a big difference.

“Getting promoted was a massive opportunity for the whole club, but this is probably the next best game to that.”

He’s also looking forward to the freedom that comes with being underdogs, as he said: “Like it was against Wolves. It’s such a freer feeling, because every game we go into we’re not the underdogs and the other team are, so now it’s good to go like we did against Wolves and play without the pressure.”

Town preparations have been stop-start in the last few weeks because of the weather, but Gray believes that could have been a blessing in disguise.

He said: “I think it might help a few players as well with little niggles and stuff.

“Because it’s cold there’s little injuries that come along the way and not everybody’s 100 per cent fit.

“So coming into a game like this where we’re going to be running more than usual, everybody needs to be more than 100 per cent.

“So I think everybody wants to play their games and get them out of the way, but at the same time it helps people as well.”

And having just been rewarded for his fine performances this season with a one year contact extensions, Gray’s looking to repay the club’s faith in him.

He added: “I’ve always said that I’m happy here and that I would never move in January and want to get promoted with the club because there’s a massive project here.

“We’re in all the cup competitions still and obviously they’ve given me a massive stepping stone to progress so obviously I want to show my loyalty in ways as well as not wanting to go.”