Two FA Cup celebrations for St Albans skipper James Gray
THERE were two FA Cup celebrations for St Albans City skipper James Gray in the past eight days.
On Saturday he led The Saints to a 3-1 first round qualifying victory away at Harrow Borough.
Just three days earlier he had seen the City U18 Midweek Youth team, which he manages with Graham Golds, see off Romford 4-2 at Clarence Park in the FA Youth Cup.
The tough-tackling centre-half or midfielder told The Herts Advertiser he felt the first team could have won their tie by even more and that the U18s put on their best display since he and Golds had been in charge of them.
“It was a good couple of results,” said the 34-year-old.
“It was the best I’d seen us [U18s] play, for the first 20 minutes they couldn’t handle us.
“I’m hoping they start well again in their first league game at Aylesbury [tonight, Thursday].
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“On Saturday it could have been four or five by half-time.
“With Barry [Hayles] and Lewis Toomey up front we always look dangerous.”
Gray is not the only link between the first team and the U18s.
First team manager David Howell has shown he is willing to give youth a chance.
A shining example is that Matt Taylor turned out for the U18s in their FA Youth Cup match, scoring the third goal, and then replaced his Youth boss Gray as a second half substitute in their FA Cup game at Harrow Borough.
Gray believes this attitude is the kind that will be of a greater good to the club from Clarence Park.
“Owsy [first team manager David Howell] has taken a few of the lads to the first team.
“Matt Taylor came on for me on Saturday so he’s now played in the FA Cup at 17, that’s not bad going.
“I think I did that when I was 17.
“The club is more of a unit now than when I first joined,” he said.
In the senior FA Cup, City will now face Ashford Town (Middlesex) who beat Dunstable Town 3-0 in extra-time after their replay on Tuesday night.
“I’ve played Ashford a few times in my career when I was with Wealdstone and they were in the Ryman Premier, they have dropped down a league now, but used to be a decent footballing side.”
Gray is hoping to continue his playing career for as long as possible, but hopes to one day manage at a senior level and is looking to complete is UEFA B coaching qualification.
On the pitch he feels The Saints are well equipped to make a challenge for promotion from the Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division, saying: “This squad is one of the strongest I’ve played with so hopefully we can at least get in the play-offs.”
City continue that quest on Saturday as they host Kettering Town at Clarence Park.
Kettering are bottom of the table having started the season on minus 10 points having been demoted to the division from the Blue Square Bet Premier after suffering financial problems.
Of the weekend’s opposition, Gray added: “They’ve had a mediocre start and drawn quite a few.
“Hopefully we can get the three points and keep the push going.”