Gray Had His Day By Ignoring All His Chairman's Orders!

Never has a manager so wet between the ears shown such a flagrant disregard for the wishes of his club’s board of directors.

Matt Gray was given just one remit this season, and he couldn’t even stick to that.

Keep Sutton United in the National League, the Gander Green Lane hierarchy demanded of him.

Not too difficult in a season where no side ended up being relegated, surely?

He still found a way to mess it all up.

“I don’t think the board even considered winning the league,” smiled the 39-year-old.

“The chairman Bruce joked recently that I had failed, I hadn’t kept the club in the division.

“All they wanted me to do was to make sure we continue to be a National League club.

“It went above my expectations too! It didn’t even cross my mind, I never thought we would be winning the league - not in my first full season.

“I had a slow start last year, it was a baptism of fire but it actually stood me in good stead.

“This time last year I had a good feeling that we could have a realistic challenge for the play-offs. I wanted to try and sneak in, maybe have a little flirt.”

He not only chatted-up promotion, relatively speaking he ended up marrying it and now has a three-bedroom semi with two kids.

Sutton sensed their chance and went for it, the second rank outsider to claim the championship in a row after Barrow’s stunning success in 2019-20.

Now the famous south west Londoners are not all about FA Cup giant killings, and the man who took them to the EFL for the first time in their history is happy about that fact.

But there’s another tag they need to shed, too.

For a while, the ‘little Sutton thing’ aided their attempts to get ahead of the U’s wealthier and more fancied promotion rivals.

Keeping the pressure off shoulders, it was the perfect antidote when things were starting to really heat up in the pressure cooker of a title race.

Now, the manager insists, it’s time for a new approach.

“We want to shake that tag, we can’t be little old Sutton United anymore,” he explained.

“We’ve got to step ourselves up as a football club. We have to go professional - we’re three-quarter time at the moment, as we call it.

“If we want to stay in League Two, we have to do things differently off the pitch too.

“We need to go overnight for away games. The players need pre-match meals and we need to change the mentality a little.

“It has served us well but that tag of ‘little old Sutton’ needs to be removed!”

He points to two huge results in the club’s season - an excellent triumph at Stockport County in February after draining trips to Torquay United and Hartlepool.

That and a dramatic 2-1 win at Dagenham, the moment many of his squad say they started really believing.

But did Gray think he was capable of such an achievement so early into his managerial career?

“I knew I was ready to be a manager to make that step, but not being a household name I had to make sure I was at the right club with the right board,” he explained.

“I felt everything was right, maybe not right to win it, but I felt we had a group who could achieve something.

“We took a bit of inspiration from what Barrow did last year, I think that’s only natural. I’m a big believer in under-dogs having their day.

“The only sticky period we had really was quite recently, with eight or nine games to go we have three draws in a row.

“I said to the players ‘the others are saying Sutton are wobbling’ but what we did so well was to always recover from a set-back.

“We didn’t mope, in fact didn’t lose back to back matches and there tells you all about their attitude.”


Where next?

Vanarama National League Review Of The Season: Part One It was a season like no other and in the first of our three-part season review, Tom Scott looks at the first third of a memorable campaign
Friday Transfer Round-Up As Starlets Make EFL Switch The season only officially ended on Sunday but some clubs have wasted little time getting new players through the door.