MORE ON KEVIN GRAY
By Jon Colman, JColman@cngroup.co.uk, Carlisle News & Star, http://www.newsandstar.co.uk, Published on 11/05/2007
RELEASED Carlisle United hero Kevin Gray said he would have jumped at the chance of a player-coaching role in order to remain with the Blues.
The inspirational defender and captain was this week freed by manager Neil McDonald after three-and-a-half memorable years with the Cumbrians.
Yorkshireman Gray, 35, is now speaking to a number of lower-division clubs as he contemplates life away from Brunton Park, after his 145-game spell at Carlisle.
But he says he would welcome a return to the club in the future – and would definitely have stayed had McDonald created a coaching role for him.
“The manager did mention that to me, but he said there wasn't really that position available at the club at the moment,” Gray told The Cumberland News.
“It would have interested me a lot if it meant I had been able to stay here. But I suppose it's not something you can create just to keep someone at a club. It didn't happen so you just have to get on with it.”
Gray, who will complete his first coaching badge at the end of July, was released along with Paul Murray, Derek Holmes and Liam Atkin on Tuesday.
It marks the end of an era for the Blues, whose rise from the Conference to the brink of the League One play-offs over the last three years owes much to hugely-respected Gray and his leadership both on and off the pitch.
“It's very disappointing to be leaving the club because I've had some very good years there,” he said.
“I was expecting it in a way, because the manager had left it so late to talk to me and one or two others. But it's still a shock when you are told you're not staying at a club you love being a part of.
“The fans have been absolutely first class with me and I really appreciate the support they've always given me and the club. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time here, but it's not to be any more.”
Gray intends to play on for at least another season at either League One or League Two level. He plans to speak to his first club Mansfield shortly, but said they were only one of many possible destinations.
“I've been talking to a few clubs and hopefully something will come of it,” he said. “There's nothing concrete yet but I'd like to get fixed up by the middle of next month or so.
“Hopefully I will get something that's close by to Carlisle. I love the place and I want to stay in the area, so somewhere north would be ideal. But if I have to travel, I will – it would only be for a year or two anyway.
“I've talked to one or two people who have finished playing and they all say the same thing – you should play as long as you can, and that's what I want to do.
“I'll carry on until nobody wants me to play or I feel I cant play any longer. I'll carry on for another year at this level or League Two, and then after that maybe non-league.
“I'd love to come back to Carlisle one day. It's something I would consider in the future if anything was ever available there. But I need to move on and concentrate on playing at the moment.”
Gray, who is playing alongside some ex-United team-mates and Emmerdale soap stars in the celebrity football match for cricketer Paul Nixon's benefit at Keswick on Sunday, describes his spell at United as the best time of his career.
“I had some good years at Huddersfield but it's been fantastic here from day one,” he said.
“Paul Simpson taking over was important, and then when Fred Story got involved and sorted the club out things really took off.
“To win League Two was probably the highlight after the great achievement of coming up through the Conference play-offs, and getting to the Football League Trophy final at the Millennium Stadium was fantastic too.
“It's been an absolute privilege to be part of the club and to have had some involvement in the way it has turned around.
“I just hope things can continue as they are, both for the football club and for the fans.”
Latest | May 2007