After a summer of speculation that saw him linked with numerous Premier League clubs, Leicester City’s Demarai Gray will return to the King Power following international duty with a point to prove.
Whether the 21-year-old actively wanted a move away from the Foxes or not is uncertain but, with the transfer window behind him, now’s his chance to step up and prove himself on the biggest stage.
Gray has been on the precipice of the Leicester first-team for the past two seasons now, struggling for regular starting opportunities but – more often than not – he’s impressed during his cameo roles.
So far this season he’s accumulated just 44 minutes of Premier League action from the bench, following just nine starts in 2016-17, but there’s a growing feeling that this could be the year for him.
He sent a very timely reminder to Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare last night during England Under-21’s qualifying clash with Latvia, putting in an outstanding display of pace, desire and the end product.
Despite playing against admittedly weak opposition, the Leicester winger ran the show all night through a combination of his superb play on the wing and his freedom to roam around the area.
Gray had actually been left out of the first-team for last Friday’s clash with Holland, with the Leicester Mercury reporting that Under-21 head coach Aidy Boothroyd claimed the youngster was affected by all the speculation surrounding deadline day, but he showed little signs of a transfer window hangover.
It took all of 13 minutes for Gray to make a telling impact, picking the ball up on the left before cutting inside his man and thrashing a powerful and dipping right-footed strike into the far corner.
This took his recent goal-scoring tally to four goals in his last four starts for the England Under-21 team, a run that includes two matches at the recent European Championships against Poland and Germany, and it’s fair to say the 21-year-old is a man in form heading back to the Premier League.
For the time being it’s more than likely that Shakespeare will continue to use the reliable Marc Albrighton and the returning Riyadh Mahrez as his two attacking outlets – much to Gray’s dismay.
However, as long as the youngster manages to keep up his recent level of performance when he does finally get given the opportunity to shine, there is only so long that the Leicester City boss can ignore him for.