It's Gray Days At Sutton But The Future Is Bright

Just 37? No managerial experience? Stepping into the shoes of a legend?

If you haven’t heard Matt Gray outline exactly why Sutton United’s summer appointment isn’t actually as left-field as it appears, chances are you will think they’re rolling the dice.

Spend five minutes with the club’s new manager, and you will soon understand that this has all been 12 years in the making.

“People will look at me and think 37 is a really young age to step into management at National League level,” Gray told us in our latest special summer feature.

“I understand the point but there’s actually a fair bit more to my story than that.

“This has been years coming for me. A lot lot of years. A really long time and a lot of hard work.

“I was forced to retire when I was 25. No age really when you’re a footballer but I had six operations in six years. There was no other option really.

“I was at Havant & Waterlooville and my back pain meant I couldn’t play on.

“It was obviously gutting. It was all I ever wanted and all I ever knew and it was a really tough time.

“I suppose what I did next was try to turn a negative into a positive in a way and work my way in the game a different way - coaching.

“I knew when I was 16 that the management side of football was going to be for me.

“Some will say I couldn’t have known that early on but I did. I remember I went away with the England youth side. After our session one afternoon I went straight to my room and just started writing.

“I was planning a training session, what I would have done and putting down on paper some coaching ideas.

“I was the youth team captain at Tottenham, I have always had the leaders’ instinct.

“From the moment I retired I got straight on with it. Ian Baird, the manager at Havant at the time, was fantastic with me. He gave me a chance.

“Since then I have been at various clubs and I have gained some valuable coaching experience.

“But management was the next logical step. It’s something I have always strived to do.

“Can coaches make good managers? I suppose we’re about to find out!”

In an ideal world, Gray wouldn’t be replacing a legend.

Doswell helped transform a club in desperate need of re-energising. His talents in the dugout took them to heights never before seen, and also an FA Cup date with Arsenal after famously knocking out Leeds United three years ago.

“They’re tough shoes to fill,” accepts the new man, preparing his side for an opening day date at Hartlepool United.

“He’s a legend here. More than a legend. He is going to be remembered forever and ever.

“It's never easy following on from someone who has been in the job for ten years and has who carries respect.

“But make no mistake, I am honoured to be the one selected to carry on his incredible work.”

Selected, in part, by the man himself.

“Paul and Bairdy (Ian Baird, assistant) recommended me to the board and that meant the world,” he explained.

“I was working at Sutton for the final few months so I really got to know the place and the people too.

“So to have the man who helped take the club to this level give his endorsement, that was special.

“I still had worked to do mind you, but the great thing about my time here last season was that I am not coming to the club cold.

“The chairman and the directors are different class. They have already been incredibly supportive - this is a fantastic club to work for.

“But I want to reward them, and the supporters who I met recently at a fans’ forum.

“The only way I can do that is by getting results on the pitch and putting out a team they can be proud of.”

PICTURES: Paul Loughlin and Mike Swift

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