Former Saint keen to help steer Pompey to success

112472-042_POMPEY_HAWKS_SR_11/7/11'Pompey vs Havant and Waterlooville at West Leigh Park.'Pompey coach Stuart Gray.''Picture:Steve Reid 112472-042
112472-042_POMPEY_HAWKS_SR_11/7/11'Pompey vs Havant and Waterlooville at West Leigh Park.'Pompey coach Stuart Gray.''Picture:Steve Reid 112472-042
Lee Bowyer.

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Stuart Gray shrugged off his Southampton links and insisted: Don’t judge me on my past.

The 51-year-old was installed as Steve Cotterill’s new first-team coach earlier this month.

Penning a two-year deal, it reunited the pair, with both haven taken their pro-licence qualification together in 2004.

For many on the south coast, Gray will always be remembered for managing Southampton a decade ago.

It was a 115-day reign which came to an end in October 2001 when his side failed to win their first eight Premier League matches of the campaign.

Since then, Gray has coached at Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Wolves – as well as managing Northampton Town.

Up until May, he had spent 16 months as first-team coach at Burnley.

Despite his much-travelled coaching career, there will be Pompey fans who will associate him entirely with their fierce rivals.

But Gray clearly has achieved so much more in his career.

He said: ‘At the end of the day, we’ve all got bills to pay.

‘I am a professional coach and that is where I will go, no matter what club it is at.

‘Obviously, I understand the feeling between the two clubs – but I have been brought in to try to bring success and help Steve get the success we all want.

‘I am a professional coach. My role is to get the best out of the players and get them prepared for the team and, hopefully, win games of football.

‘My career is not just about Southampton. Since leaving there I have been travelling around the country working at Crystal Palace, Wolves, Villa and Burnley.

‘I have been up and down the A34 and M40. On my company car there is always a lot of miles.

‘I have had a lot of clubs but more often than not it is not my own downfall – it’s managers losing their job and, obviously, the entourage they bring in.

‘But I have never been out of work long and believe I’ve got a decent reputation.

‘I have worked with some players at Villa who have gone on to play for England and moved on for millions, same at Southampton, the same at Wolves as well.

‘I’ve got a lot of experience working at other clubs. Now I am at Portsmouth and I’m delighted to be here.’

Gray retired from football at the age of 31 after picking up an Achilles tendon injury while playing for Southampton.

He went on to help coach their youth team and worked in their community office before rising through The Dell coaching ranks.

After leaving the club in October 2001, Gray would embark on a number of jobs scattered around the country,

Yet he always retained his house in West End.

And now he lives just around the corner from Pompey’s Wellington training base in Eastleigh.

He added: ‘Unfortunately, Burnley decided to go down the other route and made out I had to go due to the budget and not getting promotion. So, suddenly I was out of work.

‘Then the knock-on effect of Ian Woan going to Watford means there has been a door opened and Steve (Cotterill) obviously contacted me.

‘It’s strange considering the training ground is only five minutes from my home in West End.

‘I’ve lived in the area since 1991, my wife teaches at Berrywood Primary School in Hedge End and one of my sons, Thomas, works as a physio at a Gosport Hospital.

‘When I first came to Southampton as a player, the Wellington Sports Ground is where we used to train before moving to Marchwood.

‘As soon as Steve invited me over to have a chat, I watched the lads in training and it just had a nice feel about the place.

‘There are good players here, although, obviously, short of numbers – and Steve’s got good staff around him as well. I’m really enjoying being here.’