Gray sets sights on Premier League - and Three Lions

Record signing Andre Gray has set his sights high
Record signing Andre Gray has set his sights high
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  • Record signing has his sights set on promotion to the Premier League and an England call-up
  • Success of Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin and Danny Ings was behind decision to join the Clarets
  • Gray credits former Brentford and current Rangers boss Mark Warburton for his development

Record signing Andre Gray feels Burnley is the perfect platform to achieve his goal of Premier League football - and England honours.

The 24-year-old joined Burnley from Brentford on Friday for a club record £6m.

And ahead of an anticipated Clarets debut at Bristol City on Saturday - who rivalled Burnley for his signature – the former Luton Town man is determined to get his head down and work hard to justify his price tag.

Gray left Kenilworth Road for Griffin Park for £600,000 last summer, and netted 18 goals last term as the Bees reached the play-offs.

Burnley’s track record of strikers prgressing their careers at Turf Moor proved a big draw - with Gray noting the success of Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin and Danny Ings, who have all gone on to represent their country.

And Gray spoke about the factors behind his decision to move north: “It’s just the environment and the experience of the manager, all those kinds of things. It’s a step up in every way for me personally.

Andre Gray was signed from Luton by Brentford for just �600,000 last year

Andre Gray was signed from Luton by Brentford for just �600,000 last year

“He (Sean Dyche) wants to push me on and get me in a position that the likes of Danny Ings and Charlie Austin have been in.

“Playing for England is my main aim and that’s why I came here.

“You’ve seen the former strikers here that have done it, Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin, Danny Ings etc.

“I played against Jamie Vardy as well.

Playing for England is my main aim and that’s why I came here

Andre Gray

“It’s there to see that it can be done, and I’ll never give up that hope.

“That’s obviously a big ambition for me and hopefully I can do that while I’m playing for Burnley.

“That was 80% of the factor in me coming here.

“I’ve always had that ambition since I was young.

Andre Gray scoring for Brentford against Middlesbrough in the Championship play-offs last season

Andre Gray scoring for Brentford against Middlesbrough in the Championship play-offs last season

“They have got the experience with strikers, I think everyone knows that. Hopefully I can be the next one.”

And Gray believes he is joining a club geared for a return to the top flight: “Of course.

“It was my first day in training on Monday and not one player was off the mark at any point.

“You can see why they’ve been where they’ve been, through sheer hard work and the quality that comes with that, so why not?

“They haven’t lost many players since coming down from the Premier League so I don’t see why we won’t do it.”

Burnley’s previous transfer record was £3m, paid to Hibernian for Steven Fletcher in 2009, and Hull City for George Boyd last summer.

But his new status is just a side issue: “I didn’t put the pricetag on my head so I’ve just got to prove to Burnley that I’m worth every penny.”

Gray’s move is part of a remarkable ascent in football, following his release from Shrewsbury Town.

He joined Hinckley Town in non-league, before catching the eye at Luton, then in the Conference, and joining Brentford.

Off the pitch, things have not always been as smooth, as the scar on his left cheek, from a knife attack outside a Wolverhampton nightclub around Christmas in 2011, testifies.

He has learned his lessons, however, and said: “That’s something I’ve put behind me now. If anything it’s made me the person I am today.

“I’ve learnt a lot from it. It’s a good experience and I think a lot of people don’t get to experience some of the things I have.

“They think life’s a bit more rosy but I know the real part of life now and it’s only going to stand me in good stead.

“I just look forward now.

“I know what it’s like to be on that side and it’s going to drive me not to go back to that side.

“It’s quite easy just to look forward.”

Austin, famously, was a bricklayer as he played non league football after his release from Reading as a youngster, but Gray didn’t have any alternative career path other than playing football: “It was always football really.

“I had good people around me who just kept pushing me and pushing me.

“When I realised myself that I’ve got to do it, it was easy for me.”

And do it he has, although the attention his success at Championship level has earned has made for a testing time amid constant transfer speculation: “The last few weeks have been difficult.

“I’ve never been in that situation before so it was quite hard to deal with at times, especially trying to play and train at the same time while that was all in my head, but it’s sorted now and I just want to kick on.

“Some people’s situations are maybe different, but when there’s such a big move on the table it can be difficult.

“I was always happy to play for Brentford and I’ve got a great relationship with the boys there and I got on well with the new manager as well. It was a bit difficult in that aspect because I wanted to give 100 per cent to them if I was going to play.

“So having to get my head around that was difficult.

“But it’s all done and sealed up now. All I have to do is put the work in on the training pitch and start scoring goals for Burnley.”

Gray credits Mark Warburton, now Rangers boss, for developing him into a central striker from a wider berth - an opening which has led to a clamour for his signature, and he admitted: “I’ve still got a good relationship with my previous manager and David Weir too, and sitting down and speaking with my agent and then getting a second opinion off them that this would definitely be the right place to be.

“Last season was my first season playing up front on my own.

“I found it difficult at first but through his guidance and David Weir’s guidance it made it a lot easier for me.

“I can’t thank them enough for what they did for me last season. They showed faith in me when I went nine games without scoring. It would have been easy for them to drop me and put me on the bench, which at times I expected.

“That’s football and if you’re not scoring goals sometimes you might need a rest. But they showed faith in me and I ended up kicking on even more.

“I learnt a lot through it.

“I don’t think I’ll go nine games without scoring again. It was a big part of my learning curve there.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn and develop. I’m not the finished article at all so it was a massive part of it to come here and learn and get even better.”