Gray Anticipating 'Best Years' At Everton

Demarai Gray insists “big and ambitious” Everton will provide the stage for the best years of the electric winger’s career.

Englishman Gray scored his first goal for the Club in Saturday’s Premier League draw at Leeds United.

His next objective is to help Everton past Huddersfield Town in a Carabao Cup second-round tie on Tuesday.

But the 25-year-old, signed from Bayer Leverkusen last month, has seen enough in his embryonic Goodison Park career to anticipate a prosperous long-term future.

On a personal note, Gray is already profiting from the tutelage of Rafael Benitez, the Spanish manager who is progressively filtering fresh instructions to his exciting forward.

“I am hungry to learn and want to be an even better player,” Gray told evertontv.

“[The manager is teaching me about] positional play, when to make certain runs and movements, tactical things.

 “It all makes a difference.

“I have my best years in front of me and am at a great club, at the right place and with the right staff, to help me kick on.

“I am evolving and growing as a player and understanding the game more.

“In this team, I can be a threat.

“Us attackers have good chemistry and it is only going to get better.

“It is about putting the ball in the net, creating chances and entertaining the fans and I will focus on continuing this form.

“A cup run would be fantastic for the club and fans and players.

“For a team like Everton, it [cup run] should be a priority every season.

“It is a big and ambitious club and we should be challenging – and are more than capable of challenging – for these things.

“We will approach every competition with that same mentality and attitude.”

Gray was a consistently reliable outlet for Everton at Leeds, raiding down both flanks to pin back the hosts’ full-backs and create a number of openings.

He supplied four crosses, including one in a terrific interchange with Dominic Calvert-Lewin that led to the striker bringing a smart save from Illan Meslier.

Gray’s passing success rate of 91.4 per cent was topped among the other 19 outfield starters only by Leeds centre-backs Pascal Struijk and Liam Cooper, that pair typically risk-averse with their distribution.

The Everton attacker was at the forefront of his side’s bids to re-establish superiority following two Leeds equalisers – the compelling response to both setbacks evidence, insists Gray, of a team that won’t take a backwards step under Benitez.

“We are a good squad, with a lot of good players, players up top who can hurt teams,” said Gray.

“If we go a goal down, or concede an equaliser, we have to remain mentally strong, because we have more than enough in this team to beat anyone.

Demarai Gray
I have my best years in front of me and am at a great club, at the right place and with the right staff, to help me kick on.

“We have a great captain [Seamus Coleman] and a lot of leaders in the team.

“It was a very solid performance at Leeds.

“If we are honest with ourselves, we could have taken the three points.

“Dom had a few chances and the keeper made some good saves.

“Everyone should be proud of themselves.

“We are under new management and have been together only a short time and showed a lot of positive signs.

“There is a lot to look forward to – and, hopefully, when we get into positions to take three points in future, we will do it.”

Gray’s first Everton goal, a crisp finish across Leeds goalkeeper Meslier, came in only his second appearance, following a debut in the opening-day victory over Southampton.

He could feature again at Championship Huddersfield in midweek, before Saturday’s Premier League trip to Brighton & Hove Albion completes Everton’s fixtures prior to the September international break.

“The goal was a great moment, good for me and my family and the fans,” continued Gray.

“I was delighted to score and it was a solid team performance.

“There are a lot of positives to take and we have to focus on the cup game and Brighton.

“Hopefully, we can win at Huddersfield and the game before the international break and that will be a good start to the season.”