Premier League Career: Burnley (2016-2017), Watford (2017-PRESENT)
Andre Gray is one of Watford’s most expensive signings. He is playing a role in their best-ever Premier League campaign to-date, helped by scoring a couple of recent matchwinners in the 2018-2019 season. Gray starred in his career previously as a proven goalscorer for Luton Town and Brentford and helped Burnley achieve promotion to the top-flight in 2015-2016.
A product of the youth system at Shrewsbury Town, he signed his first professional contract at the start of the 2009-2010 season. He made five appearances in their first-team but was released at the end of the campaign. He dropped into the non-league in a bid to revive his career and joined Hinckley United in June 2010, having previously experienced a one-month loan with them in the previous campaign. He scored 14 goals in 35 appearances in 2010-2011, including four goals in a 7-2 thumping of Solihull Moors in late April 2011. Hinckley were a part-time club at the time but Gray stayed with them until the summer of 2012 when he joined Luton Town who had plunged into the non-league themselves after years of financial mismanagement.
He became the first player in Hatters history to score in each of his first four matches for the club and scored 47 league goals in 88 appearances, helping Luton to the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2013 which included a giant-killing victory over Premier League outfit Norwich City in round four. At the third time of asking, he helped Luton earn promotion back to the Football League as Conference champions in 2014 and he ended that season as top goalscorer in the division too.
Local rivals Milton Keynes Dons expressed an interest in his signature in the summer of 2014 but in the end, he made the leap up to the Championship, signing a three-year deal with Brentford. He won the Championship Player of the Month in November 2014, scored five goals in five matches and ended with 18 goals in all competitions as the Bees made the Championship play-offs before bowing out to Middlesbrough in the semi-finals.
His season in London attracted interest from Hull City who had three transfer bids rejected. Eventually, it was Burnley who won the race to sign him with the Clarets paying Brentford a club-record fee for his services in August 2015. He was an immediate hit with the Burnley supporters, shooting them back to the Premier League at the first attempt. He scored 25 times to win the Championship Golden Boot and was named Championship Player of the Season by his peers. Sean Dyche’s decision to pay Brentford approximately £6 million was a shrewd piece of business.
In August 2016, he made his Premier League debut in a home defeat to Swansea City and scored in his next match as the Clarets defeated Liverpool FC 2-0. A few days later, he was charged with misconduct by the FA after a series of homophobic tweets he posted on Twitter in 2012 came out in the public spectrum. Despite a strong public defence from the player and his club, the FA suspended him for four matches, fined him £25,000 and reminded him about his future conduct.
Gray put aside this misdemeanour and rediscovered his goalscoring touch after his ban. He scored a New Years’ Eve hat-trick in 2016 to sink Sunderland 4-1, becoming the first Burnley player to score a top-flight treble since Peter Noble in 1975. He finished with decent figures of nine goals in 32 appearances but with his contract entering its final 12 months and no sign of an agreement between player and club representatives, he left Burnley for Watford in August 2017 for a club-record fee at the time.
He has shown glimpses of his previous form at Vicarage Road, scoring on his second return to Turf Moor earlier this season and also, scoring recent winning goals at home to Everton and Leicester City. As of early March 2019, a return of 10 goals in 50 appearances is not what anyone was hoping for. However, still just 27, there’s more to come from Andre Gray. It will be interesting to see how long though he can play second-fiddle to the likes of Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra in Hertfordshire.