Accrington Stanley striker Gray determined to grasp his chance

James Gray

James Gray

First published in Sport Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , Burnley FC reporter

KAYODE Odejayi’s towering frame alone would be enough to terrify most opposition defenders, but for team-mate James Gray those broad shoulders have been useful for leaning on.

“He’s a really top professional. He’s a BFG,” said the striker, using the acronym for ‘Big Friendly Giant’ for the 6ft 3ins targetman.

Odejayi has been a listening ear, a mentor, an educator for the 21-year-old while he has played a patient waiting game to play.

The chance to start, for the first time since Boxing Day, came two games ago, at Odejayi’s expense. The Northern Ireland Under 21 international impressed in the win over Chesterfield to keep his place for the midweek visit of Hartlepool.

He wants that run of games to continue at Rochdale tomorrow. And he insists he and Odejayi won’t fall out about it if it does.

“Kayode looks after me, before a game he’ll take me to one side and speak to me.

“When I wasn’t in the team he’d tell me I’d get my chance,” Gray said.

“After the games he said he knew I was capable of putting those performances in and to keep doing it.

“He said he won’t get back in if I keep playing like that.

“But we’re all really good mates and whoever’s playing you’ve just got to get on with it really and if they’re playing well you’ve just got to hold your hands up and accept it.”

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Gray is happy to be the one in the driving seat for now, having started back-to-back home games alongside Danny Webber. But it is not a position that he takes for granted.

“I’m really pleased to have started the last two games. There’s nothing worse when you’re training every week and you’re not playing on a Saturday or a Tuesday night.

“But I bided my time and got in and hopefully I can just stay there for as long as possible,” he said.

“It’s a cliché when they say it’s easy getting into the team but it’s harder staying in the team, but you’ve got to appreciate it when you are in the side and put your marker down.

“Hopefully I can do that and the gaffer can keep picking me.

“I’m looking to play as many games as I can and keep my shirt.”

There are good omens for Gray and his Accrington team-mates this weekend if he keeps that centre forward spot.

The Yarm-born front man started the last time Stanley went to Spotland, where they earned an important win in their fight for survival, and return in a similar predicament just four points clear of the bottom two.

“It was unbelievable. It wasn’t a 3-0 game but we’d have taken that every week, and I think we’re more than capable of going there and getting the points again,” said Gray, who is anticipating a reaction from promotion favourites Rochdale following their surprise midweek defeat at Torquay.

Gray added: “Keith Hill’s a great manager and Rochdale are in the automatic promotion positions for a reason, they’re a good team. But we have no worries going there.

“I think the win against Chesterfield was a massive shock up and down the country but we battered them.

“I think we did Rochdale a favour.”

But there won’t be any tomorrow. Gray, and Stanley, have their own agenda.

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