There’s no doubting that 2016 has been the pinnacle of striker Andre Gray’s career so far.
The 25-year-old ended the calendar year by scoring the club’s first ever Premier League hat-trick as Burnley climbed to 11th in the table with a 4-1 win over Sunderland at Turf Moor.
It’s crazy how things have changed for me. It’s massive and there’s a long way to go!Andre Gray
And that was the cherry on the cake for the former Brentford frontman who collected numerous honours for his achievements.
Last season’s Championship top scorer, who netted 25 times in all to help Sean Dyche’s side seal the title, was included in the PFA team of the season and was also presented with the player of the year accolade at the Football League Awards.
“Personally I couldn’t have asked for much more,” he said. “Obviously we got promoted, I managed to be top scorer in the Championship, I got player of the year.
“It just topped it off today with a hat-trick. It’s only my second career hat-trick in professional football.
“It’s a surreal feeling. It was three years ago now I was playing non-league so it was a massive, massive moment for me personally.
“I never would have dreamed of it. It’s crazy how things have changed for me. It’s massive for me and there’s a long way to go.”
The last representative to hit three goals in a game for the club in the top flight was Peter Noble as the Clarets drew 4-4 with Norwich City more than 40 years ago.
That season, the 1974/75 term, with Jimmy Adamson at the helm, was also the last time that the Clarets preserved their status among England’s elite clubs as they finished 10th.
Now, after moving nine points clear of the division’s drop zone at the halfway point of the campaign, Gray feels that survival is achievable.
“It just proves anything’s possible,” he said. “We’re only halfway there now. There’s a long way to go, if we can replicate what we’ve done in the first half then hopefully we’ll be fine.
“We always look up. If you aim low you’re going to shoot low. We can aim as high as we possibly can and keep climbing. Anything’s possible.
“If you look at the table we can beat anyone outside the top six. Obviously we can still get points off the top six on our day. We’ve got to set our sights high and hopefully we can get there.”
Gray had gone in to the Boxing Day clash with Middlesbrough with just one goal to his name in 11 appearances in the Premier League but went on to net four times in just two outings.
But the £6m signing was still playing Non-League football three seasons ago with Luton Town and that’s taught the hitman to remain realistic in his ambition.
“That’s why I never get down on myself when I’m not scoring because it can quickly change,” said the striker. “Not scoring in 10 games or so to scoring four in two, it’s just how strikers work and I’ve just got to keep working hard.
“It’s one of them, just to stay composed. You can miss and I’ve never been that kind of player to be too high or too low. Some days it works some days it doesn’t.”
Heading in to the final stretch of the season, Gray added: “We know what we’ve got in the changing room and if we haven’t got the quality we’ve got the spirit and that’s three-quarters of the job done.
“It’s not as easy as it looks. It’s been difficult but we’re a great team together, we get on on and off the pitch, there’s no bad eggs in our changing room and we all want the same thing, are fighting for the same thing. Eveyrone wants to do well in their career and we all know what we want to be and we’re trying to do it as a team.”