Andre Gray received a professional contract at Shrewsbury Town at the end of his apprenticeship but had to take several steps back to make some giant leaps forward. The 24 year-old joined Burnley for a club record fee this summer after spells at Telford, Hinckley, Luton and Brentford.
Gray has come a long way since being released by Shrewsbury at the end of a year as a professional in 2009-10. It has not been a short or entirely smooth road back towards the top for Gray who drifted into non-league football after leaving the Shrews.
However Gray, who is currently the top scorer in The Championship, has not looked back since a becoming Burnley’s club-record signing – in a deal worth around £6million up front and a further £3million in add-ons – last summer.
“Andre was player who we have been aware of since his Hinckley Town days in non-league,” said Clarets boss Sean Dyche. “He has worked very, very hard to get to the level he’s at. He has risen up the ladder and, in many ways, had a similar pathway to two former strikers here – Danny Ings and Charlie Austin.”
“In that respect there is a rawness, a hunger and a great desire from him to continue his education and go even further, and we intend that to be with us in the immediacy and also in the future.”
Gray, a former England C international, joined the Shrews in 2004 and five years later signed his first professional contract. However, the striker was limited to just five substitute appearances and after loan spells with non-league Telford and Hinckley, Gray made a permanent switch to Hinckley.
“I was at the stage in my life where I thought everything was set for me. I didn’t really care about playing in Shrewsbury’s reserves which it shouldn’t have been,” he told The Non-League Football Paper.
“To come out of full-time football and go part-time made my mind up. I’m glad I got that set-back so young because now I know that’s not where I want to end up again. Ever.”
He added: “Everyone’s got a dream, mine is to play as high as I can. The only thing that stops people is what is in their head. Playing non-league gives you that drive.”