DAILY MIRROR HAILS CARDS BOSS
Article by Oliver Holt
12:00am, Wed 22nd Aug 2007
Frank Gray has spent his life being grateful to football. Last week, he did something that made football grateful to him.
He owes the game a lot, he says. It made him the only player to appear in a European Cup Final for two English clubs. He lost with Leeds in 1975 and won with Nottingham Forest in 1980. It took him to the World Cup Finals in Spain with Scotland in 1982.
It made his brother, Eddie, a Leeds legend. It gave his son, Andy, a decent career with Sheffield United, Sunderland and Burnley and a Scotland cap of his own.
It took him into a flirtation with being an agent and a management career on the fringes of the Football League that has never quite taken off.
It gave him a lovely house on Hayling Island. It gave him a life he loves. It gave him camaraderie and memories that he treasures.
"I've had a great life in football," he said. "I've enjoyed every single minute of it." So last week, Frank Gray gave football something back.
You may not have heard about what he did. It only made a couple a paragraphs here and there, tucked away behind Cristiano Ronaldo's red card.
But on a foul night at a football outpost, the dignity and courage of the decision he made entitles him to the thanks of a sport that sometimes struggles to peer in the mirror without blushing in shame.
Gray, 52, is manager of Conference side Woking. Last Wednesday, he took his young team to the New Recreation Ground in Essex for a league match against Grays Athletic.
He was only appointed in May. It's his first job since the Grays chairman, who still runs the club, fired him by phone after 14 games in charge last autumn.
Gray could have been forgiven if he'd gone into the game with revenge in his heart. What he did proved he's not that kind of man.
It was goalless with only five minutes to go when Woking defender Matt Ruby went down injured in his own half.
A Grays player booted the ball into touch so he could be treated. When Ruby recovered, the ball was returned to play and Woking's Matt Pattison passed it back to Grays' keeper Ross Flitney.
Except the ball was caught by the wind and the pass turned into a lob. Flitney was stranded and Woking were 1-0 up and looking at their first win of the season. A couple of the Woking players celebrated.
But Frank Gray didn't celebrate. He walked on to the pitch and made for his captain, Tom Hutchinson. A linesman tried to usher Gray away but he kept walking. He was told he could be sent off. He still kept walking. He told Hutchinson what had to be done. Hutchinson relayed the message to the rest of the team. Some of them were crestfallen. Grays took the kickoff and when striker Ben Watson took the next touch, the Woking players stood still.
When Watson got to the goal, the Woking keeper Nick Gindre put his head in his hands and stepped aside, too. The game finished 1-1.
"A few people in the game have rung me up and told me they wouldn't have done it," Gray said yesterday.
"That's up to them. But I couldn't have lived with myself if I hadn't done what I did. It was the only thing to do.
"Other people have asked me how I'll feel if we miss out on promotion to the Football League by a point.
"Well, I'll feel okay because we didn't deserve that goal against Grays last Wednesday. It would have been wrong if we had won like that."
Gray is a child of the Don Revie era at Leeds but he has shrugged off the cynicism associated with that regime.
He is a quiet, modest man. The details of last Wednesday have to be prised out of him. He's not looking for accolades. What he did doesn't strike him as out of the ordinary. "It never even crossed my mind to do anything else," he said.
What about the keeper with his hands on his head? "Maybe he was on a clean sheet bonus," Gray said. And the rest of the players? "Their initial thought might have been 'oh good, 1-0 up'," Gray said, "but they soon realised what had to be done."
What Gray did is not unique. A few years ago, Yeovil boss Gary Johnson ordered his side to allow a Plymouth equaliser in similar circumstances in a Carling Cup tie.
But would it happen in the Premier League now? Would the win-at-all-costs mentality that dominates there allow decency and doing the right thing to triumph?
Or would that kind of sportsmanship be viewed as a sign of weakness? At a time when football is still trying to recover from the squalid events of last season, what Gray did last Wednesday shines like a light in the gloom.
Gray's career in management has been unremarkable so far. Not any more. Before last Wednesday, Frank Gray was already a European Cup winner and a Scotland international. Now there's another honour to his name.
Article by Oliver Holt 22/08/2007
taken from Daily Mirror website: www.mirror.co.uk/sport