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Villan on the Spot: Andy Gray Q&A

Wednesday media watch [24.06.15 AM] Flashback 2014-15: Benteke king of the Palace
Villan on the Spot: Andy Gray Q&A

In a new summer feature series, supporter Colin Abbott meets up with a series of ex-stars to discuss their time with Villa. Next up we chat to Andy Gray.

Not many players have moved to Villa and made such an impact as Andy Gray, who scored on his home debut and never looked back.

He dived in where some forwards would fear to tread and truly was bravery personified.

The bustling Scottish striker was Villa's leading scorer for two seasons and was the first player to land both Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in the same season.

Q] How did you come to sign for Villa?

A] I was 19 and had just started my third season in Scotland with Dundee United.

Jim McLean, my manager, said it was time to go because he couldn't teach me anymore and I needed to move up.

In September 1975 Ron Saunders came in. Keith Leonard had been badly injured and he was without a striker back in the First Division so he sent his scout up to have a look at me.

I'd been scoring lots of goals but he took a punt on me really.

I met Saunders on the Friday and signed that day, stayed down the weekend and watched Villa beat Birmingham in the derby.

I sat there in the dugout thinking, "I want a bit of this!"

Q] Who were your boyhood heroes?

A] Denis Law was a massive hero of mine for what he was doing for Scotland.

At club level - I was a big Rangers fan and still am - my heroes in those days were Jim Baxter and a centre-forward called Colin Stein. He was brilliant at a time when I was quite impressionable.

Q] Who was the biggest influence on career?

A] It would have to be Jim McLean.

Although I was only with him for two years he taught me about the game, how to play centre-forward and the mental side of it.

He said you should never be satisfied with what you achieve, always strive to achieve more.

He only taught me good habits. They always say your first coach is the most important and he was the biggest influence in my career but all the other managers I played with helped me in certain ways.

Gray

Q] Who was your most difficult opponent?

A] I'll tell you who I never liked playing against, a centre-back who played for Sunderland, Man City and England - Dave Watson.

He was hard as nails and I always had a tough time playing against him. He was a real competitor.

Roy McFarland and Colin Todd as a pair were hard to play against too. They were brilliant as a centre-back partnership.

Q] What was your most memorable game?

A] I should really say the League Cup final but I think my most memorable game was the 5-1 demolition of Liverpool.

They were a great side and by half-time we were leading 5-1, I got two, Dixie Deehan got two and Brian Little got one.

The whole place was shell-shocked. It was just the most amazing night.

We were going well and we thought we could go on and win the title. Maybe we should have.

Q] What was your worst injury?

A] I had a few injuries at Villa. They were all pretty much the same, all to do with my knee - cartilage problems.

But I never broke anything and the longest I was ever out was about six weeks.

Q] Why did you leave Villa?

A] Simple, I fell out with Ron Saunders.

He accused me of cheating him, the fans and the club after a game against Barcelona.

I lost respect for him and decided I wanted to go.

Gray

Q] What was it like to represent your country?

A] It was everything.

Club football was great but to represent your country was always the pinnacle for me.

I didn't do it enough, for various reasons, but I always wanted to play for me country, I did, and I always wanted to score for my country - which I also did!

It was a highlight of my career to pull on that Scotland shirt.

I played with some great players, including the best player I ever played with, Kenny Dalglish.

Q] Are you still involved in football today?

A] Yes, I live in the middle-east in Qatar - and Richard Keys and I present all the Premier League and Champions League games for a company called beIN Sports.

It's an English-speaking channel and we broadcast to millions across the middle-east.

Graeme Souness, David Platt, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Francis all come over to Qatar to appear.

Q] Do you still see any of your former team-mates?

A] I don't see many of the lads from Villa.

Giddy (John Gidman) is still one of my best mates and when I lived back here I saw him a lot.

And I still stay in contact with Alex Cropley. I did the Foreword for his book 'Crops.'

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AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 24th June 2015