In the latest of a new series for the 2013/14 season, we take a closer look at Goodison legend Andy Gray.
Ahead of each match, the focus will be on one specific player who made a name at Everton and the Blues' forthcoming opponents.
Gray is this week's 'Club Connector' as we get set to make the trip to Villa Park on Saturday afternoon...
GOODISON PARK HERO
Gray spent just under two years at Goodison Park - a period synonymous with silverware, and one which he now describes among the best of his career.
He signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers in November 1983 for £250,000 and six months later he had helped the Toffees win the FA Cup for the first time in 18 years.
He scored the second goal in the 2-0 win against Watford at Wembley – a header many felt should have been disallowed for a foul on Hornets goalkeeper Steve Sherwood – which helped to fulfil a childhood ambition for the forward.
“When you grow up in Scotland you view the FA Cup final from afar and dream of playing in it,” the Scot told evertonfc.com back in 2008. “In fact, there are three things you want to do - play in it, win it and score in it. Luckily I managed to do all three and it's something I'm proud of, something I look back on fondly.”
Twelve months later and Gray had more than played his part in the Blues' famous double-winning season of 1984/85. He scored 14 goals in all competitions as Everton triumphed in both the Division One championship and European Cup Winners’ Cup.
In the continental competition, Gray was on target in the memorable semi-final comeback win over Bayern Munich at Goodison and was once again among the goals as Howard Kendall’s side beat Rapid Vienna 3-1 in the final in Rotterdam.
Perhaps the most cherished of all Gray’s goals that year, however, came in the April as the rampant Toffees thumped Sunderland 4-1 at Goodison, with the Glasgow-born man netting a brace of diving headers. The first of his aerial attempts, in front of a packed Gwladys Street, is still discussed on the terraces to this day.
“I remember Reidy putting in a perfect cross for me," he recalled. "There was no question of me going for it with my feet - it was perfect for a diving header. I actually got two diving headers that day but that was the equaliser and a picturebook one at that. To come from behind to get that result was fantastic.”
In June 1985, Everton recruited Gary Lineker and that was Gray’s cue to re-join Aston Villa, leaving Merseyside with a record of 22 goals in 68 appearances.
FOR THE OTHER SIDE
Gray had originally burst onto the scene in England in October 1975 when he joined Aston Villa as a fresh-faced 19-year-old. He had earned his move to the Midlands after plundering 46 league goals in 62 appearances as a teenager for Dundee United.
Gray smashed 25 league goals in his first full season at Villa Park – a total which won him the Golden Boot accolade and fired Aston Villa to League Cup success.
He beat this total by four the following season and he was justifiably named both the 1977 PFA Player and Young Player of the Year - an achievement matched only by Cristiano Ronaldo (2008) and Gareth Bale (2013) since.
Gray left Villa for Wolves in the autumn of 1979 for a then British transfer record fee of £1.5million. But after four years at Molineux and a further two seasons with Everton, he was back wearing the Claret and Blue, although his second stint with Aston Villa was less successful.
He scored just five times in the 1985/86 campaign and the following season failed to register a single goal as Villa – European Cup winners five years earlier – were relegated to Division Two.
Gray was sold to West Bromwich Albion in September 1987 and later wound down his career with Rangers, where he won his last major honour – the SPL title in 1989.
AFTER HANGING UP HIS BOOTS
Gray ended his playing days with then non-league Cheltenham Town. He retired in 1990 and later returned to Villa Park for a third spell, this time as a coach. He also had a short stint as David Pleat’s assistant at Sheffield Wednesday before devoting his time to football punditry.
The inception of the Premier League in 1992 saw the launch of Sky Sports’ live coverage of the English top-flight. Gray, working alongside anchorman Richard Keys, was the channel’s flagship pundit for almost two decades until leaving his position in January 2011.
Both he and Keys later took the reins of a mid-morning chat show on TalkSport, which they hosted for two years until this summer, when they announced that they would be returning to television work with Middle-East giants Al Jazeera.
THOSE WHO KNOW HIM BEST
Of Gray, former teammate Kevin Sheedy recalls: “Andy was a totally whole-hearted player. He wanted to win every ball and put his head into situations to try to score goals. He didn’t play a lot of games for Everton but supporters will remember him for the way he played the game.
“Andy was actually fortunate to get into the side in 1985 due to an injury to Adrian Heath. Adrian was playing the best football of his career but sometimes you get good breaks in football and for Andy that was the case. He came into a confident team that was playing well and creating lots of chances.
“My forte was putting balls into the box and obviously there were two strikers with Sharpy and Andy who, if they didn’t manage to get on the end of the crosses, they certainly managed to put the defenders under pressure. They always attacked the ball with great bravery and we had a lot of success as a result.”
[FB] “In all games, he would put his head where no other forward would.” - Gerry Kelly[/FB]
[FB] “One of my favourite memories of Andy Gray was the game against Sunderland and that brilliant diving header. The reason I loved watching him is the fact he gave 100 per cent all the time.” - Simon Lennon Burns[/FB]
[FB] “He was a great header of the ball – fearless - and he frightened Bayern Munich to death. What a contribution to Everton’s history!” – Stan Kos[/FB]
[FB] “It's because of this man I'm a Blue instead of a Red like the rest of my family! He only spent two seasons with Everton but is an absolute legend.” – Peter Allen[/FB]
[FB] “I was at 1984 FA Cup final when we beat Watford 2-0. I will never forget the experience.” – Iolo Owen [/FB]