Supersub Gray lights the blue touch paper but isn’t happy on the bench
Livewire striker Andre Gray has no intention of just becoming a supersub at Kenilworth Road after coming off the bench to inspire them to a 2-0 home win over Salisbury City on Tuesday night, writes Mark Wood.
He won a penalty within seconds of coming on, converted by Solomon Taiwo, and terrorised the Whites’ defence all evening as Luke Guttridge’s late header sealed victory.
The 22-year-old striker made a similar impact on Saturday, winning a penalty that was missed by Shaun Whalley, but is intent on earning a starting place.
He said: “I think that’s part of my game and I think I’m not here to be an impact player and I’m not here to be on the bench.
“If I do come in again I’ve got to prove myself as well. I can’t just expect to come off the bench and get back in the team and that’s it.
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“Because obviously the competition is high and we’ve still got great strikers here with Cully (Mark Cullen) and Shawy (Jon Shaw) and stuff, so I’ve always got to be on my toes and always working hard and do the best I can if I get back in the team.”
But he was pleased by his contribution, saying: “I think that’s all I can do at the moment, I think if you are on the bench you’ve just got to come on and try and stake a claim for your spot.
“So I’m doing the best I can to come on and try and affect things if it’s possible.
“That’s all I can do. It’s obviously frustrating for me as it’s going to be for any player if anybody comes out of the team, goes back in the team, it is frustrating because everybody is here to play and everyone wants to do well.
“I think no-one’s here just to be here, everyone is here to be successful and move on in their career whether it be with this club or another club.
“So I think it’s obviously been frustrating, but it’s a matter of working hard and getting my head down.
“I think it’s football and I think everyone goes through that stage and I think it’s just a test of my character now to try and just keep working hard and keep knocking on the door and try and get my spot back and keep it.”
On the penalty he won, he said: “I think they are attracted to my ankles for some reason. I don’t think he needed to take me down, but fortunately he did and it got us under way.”
Boss John Still was delighted with Gray’s contribution in the last two games after a quiet pre-season.
Both times he has enlivened the Hatters this week, as Still said: “It’s so difficult sometimes to try and explain if you’re not doing (the business).
“I’ve tried to explain to all of the players and I’ve tried to bring players in that can deal with an expectation.
“And sometimes you’ve just to dig in, dig in, dig in and a moment of quality can decide games and can decide games either way.
“And I know we have good quality and we have to keep going, waiting for someone with the right quality to light the blue touch paper.
“Andre I think was very quiet in pre-season and he came on and got a couple of goals against Arsenal, but I think he had a quiet pre-season and we haven’t started with him, but he’s a very good player.
“And at the moment I think the impact he’s having is brilliant. I’m hoping we’re going to push him on, and push him on and he’s going to be a regular starter.
“But he’s come on in two games and sort of livened us up. Lighting the blue touch paper, someone’s got to light that blue touch paper because if we do the place erupts.
“It’s small steps, and as disappointing as it was Saturday as pleasing as it was today, because we never played great, we played adequately to win.
“There’ll be a lot of adequately to win. Leagues are won on adequate wins. And when you have special days you can really celebrate it.
“But this is a tough, tough game we’re in. It’s about winning, I’ve looked at results today and people that might have been off to a flyer on Saturday didn’t do so great today and that’s the game and let’s get six, seven, eight games out of the way and we’ll look where we are and we’ll find out the people who can light the blue touch paper for us.”
Penalty converter Taiwo was full of praise from Gray’s attitude and commitment too, adding: “You can’t knock Andre’s attitude. Obviously everybody wants to play and how well he done last season I can understand why he might be disappointed not to be starting.
“But he’s come on the last two games and he’s made a difference twice so it’s going to be hard.
“I’m sure the gaffer’s happy about the hard decision he’s going to have to make come Saturday, but if we’ve got players on the bench like that that are willing to come on and make a difference then listen, the season’s going to be a good old season.”