How would Andre Gray fit in at Sunderland?
Having kept them up by writing yet another great escape chapter on Wearside in 2015/16, Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce departed Sunderland to occupy the England hotseat vacated by Roy Hodgson, with the reins at the Stadium of Light being taken up by former Everton and Manchester United manager David Moyes.
The Black Cats registered 48 goals in the Premier League under Allardyce last season, but Scotsman Moyes has been desperate to add firepower to his new ranks in the North East and has targeted Burnley’s leading scorer from 2015/16, Andre Gray.
The Wolverhampton-born striker hit 23 goals in the Championship for the Clarets last season as they won the title and sealed promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt. He has shown a keen eye for goal throughout his career, hitting 47 goals in 88 appearances for Luton Town in what is now the National League, and a further 18 in 47 appearances in the Championship for West London club Brentford before he made the move north to Lancashire.
About to grace the top-flight for the first time in his career, he may just christen his career as a Premier League forward with another move to Wearside. But where would Andre Gray fit in at the Stadium of Light?
Moyes has only two fit forwards at his disposal in the current squad at Sunderland. Last season’s leading marksman Jermain Defoe and the unpredictable Fabio Borini. With Defoe now 33, from an outside perspective it may seem as if the club are lining up a long-term replacement in Gray in preparation for the waning years of the England international forward’s career. But with Defoe still capable of scoring goals, it is likely Gray will find himself alongside the England man, rather than stepping into his boots in the Sunderland front-line.
Although Fabio Borini may be capable of moments of brilliance, including a sensational winner in the Tyne-Wear Derby against Newcastle United in October 2013, but has never managed to hit double figures in any league throughout his career, a record which is dwarfed by Defoe and Gray.
It is likely therefore, that Moyes may opt for two somewhat more prolific forwards to lead the line for Sunderland, with Borini in reserve for when an impact is required. A second prolific forward would indeed help ease the goal burden previously taken on by Defoe, on whom the Black Cats were somehwat over-reliant last season.
With Defoe ageing yet still capable of scoring goals, his tutelage would be of vast benefit to Gray, who at 25 is still sharpening the final aspects of his game as he edges into his career prime. Although Defoe may not have many prolific seasons left in him, his goals for the present and his influence on Gray will help his younger counterpart come unto his own in future and potentially lead the Black Cats forward-line himself, as the main source of goals, or with another younger, up and coming strike partner.
A capable goal-scorer in the Championship and lower leagues, Gray may well have a lot to offer Sunderland in the way of goals, and as many minutes as possible on the pitch alongside a proven goal-scorer at Premier League level will help him.
He is a player who also thrives on confidence, showing imperious form given Burnley’s domination of the Championship last season, and he will need a level-headed counterpart up front to help him maintain such form in the tougher climate of the Premier League.
He has all the attributes to be as good as Defoe if not better in the future, for both are quick, show strong technique and a scintillating eye for goal and can be dangerous cutting in from wide positions. Gray fits the bill to be a long-term replacement for the veteran were Sunderland to approach Burnley over an acquisition, but playing alongside Defoe for as much time as possible will be the way to get the best out of him.
He is too prolific to play a bit-part role and be wasted on the bench, and Moyes will be keen to get him scoring as many goals in the Premier League as possible.
For that, until he comes unto his own, it is logical that he should play with a partner and who better than a veteran England international in Jermain Defoe who has regularly hit double figures in the Premier League.
Gray has to be nurtured as a goalscorer at Sunderland – there is no other way to use him, and for the foreseeable future, two up front will be where he fits into the equation. He can run the channels, provide and score goals, and if the Black Cats can acquire him, he would be a good bet to be a big hit at the Stadium of Light.
Though his current manager at Turf Moor Sean Dyche will be keen to hold onto him as Burnley gear up for next season to be the season in which they finally survive in the Premier League, so if an approach is to follow it may be a long drawn-out saga.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by craig ballantyne
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