THE last Burnley player to win a divisional golden boot award has backed Andre Gray to carry his goalscoring form into the Premier League.

The 24-year-old struck 23 Championship goals for the club, as well as two for former side Brentford, to finish top scorer as the Clarets took the title last season.


He is the first Burnley striker to finish as top scorer in a league since Andy Payton in the then Second Division in 1999/2000.

The ‘Padiham Predator’ hit 27 league goals in that season and he believes Gray will be able to make the step up to the Premier League next season, despite playing in the Football League for just two seasons.

“You’re looking at one of the best leagues in the world, so it’s going to be tough. But with goalscorers once you get in a rhythm you score anywhere,” said Payton, who scored 81 times for his home town club.

“It’s like when I went up to Celtic and the Rangers side we faced had Trevor Steven, Mark Hatley and Ally McCoist. I had doubts when I went up there, it’s natural, but I got 20 goals.

“If he starts off scoring he’ll carry on where he left off.”

Gray certainly started off scoring after his initial £6million move from Brentford to Burnley last August.

The Clarets snapped him up to lead the line after Danny Ings’ move to Liverpool, despite having only had one year with the Bees since stepping up from the Conference.

But he scored 23 times in 41 league games to help Burnley to the title and Payton believes he played a key role in the club’s immediate return to the Premier League.

“He got 25 goals, that’s brilliant,” said Payton. “That’s what you need, he came in and hit the ground running, you can’t do anymore than score the most goals in the division as a striker.

“It’s been a brilliant team performance but I always look at the strikers and he’s done the business.”

Gray’s strike partner Sam Vokes scored 16 times in league and cup, and Payton added: “Vokesy’s done brilliantly since he came back from his injury, he’s really hit his stride in the second half of the season and got some crucial goals.”

Gray’s meteoric rise from non-league football - he was playing for Hinckley United in the Conference North just over four years ago - reflects a growing trend for players making it to the higher levels despite having to fight their way up from outside a professional academy.

And Payton recognises similarities between Gray and Jamie Vardy, whose rise has taken him from non-league to England goalscorer at Euro 2016, and 24 top flight goals last season.

“What I like about him is that he plays on the shoulder and gets balls over the top,” Payton said of Leicester City’s key man.

“People have watched Barcelona and said the long-ball game is dead, but Leicester have brought it back in. Centre halfs can’t stand Vardy because of his movement and pace to get those balls over the top.

“I’m glad that’s back in the game, if you’ve got somebody with pace up front centre halfs hate it. Andre is a lot like that, he plays on the shoulder. Four years ago both of them were playing non-league, it’s great to see their rise.

“You get a lot of non-league players who haven’t made the grade, but it shows their is a platform there for everyone, whether they’re at Colne or anywhere else, if you can get 25 goals in a division you’ve got a chance, it’s been proven.”