SAFC Legends Series – Micky Gray

Born in Sunderland, in 1974, Michael Gray started his youth career at his boyhood club, Manchester United.

Although he was a very talented player, being a left winger meant that he had to compete with the likes of Ryan Giggs.

He reportedly refused a professional contract at United due to this reason and returned to his hometown, Sunderland to pursue his career.

He made his debut for Sunderland at the age of 18 years old in a 1-0 win over Derby County in Division One (Championship).

Micky could play in a variety of positions, but he spent most of his career down the left hand side.

He started as a left winger originally, before moving into left-back, where he spent most of his career with the Black Cats.

Gray started every game in the 1995/96 season when Sunderland were promoted to the Premier League for the first time since it’s creation in 1992, and they did it as champions.

Unfortunately, The Black Cats were relegated straight back down to the First Division and in the following season, Sunderland made it to the play-off final against Charlton at Wembley.

The Match is regarded by many as the greatest play-off final ever, with the game ending 3-3 in normal time and then 5-4 after extra-time, before going to penalties.

Unfortunately for Micky, he stepped up to take the penultimate penalty for Sunderland and it was saved, meaning Charlton were promoted to the Premier League.

However, the following season, Sunderland went up as champions and Micky Gray impressed that much, Kevin Keegan picked him for the England side and he made his debut in April 1999, coming on as a substitute against Hungary.

In June of that year, he went on to make a further 2 appearances for England, one against Sweden as a substitute and another against Bulgaria, where he made his first, and only start for the Three Lions.

He was the last outfield player to play for England outside of top-flight football, until David Nugent played for England in 2007, whilst playing for Preston North-End in the Championship.

In the 1999/00 and the 2000/01 seasons, he was a regular starter for Sunderland in the Premier League, when they finished 7th twice in a row, which is still to this day, Sunderland’s highest ever finish in the Premier League.

After this, Sunderland struggled in the 2001/02 season, just staying up, before eventually getting relegated in 2003.

After relegation, Gray moved to Celtic on loan, before leaving the club permanently in 2004.

Gray played 363 league games for Sunderland over the course of 12 years, scoring 16 goals.

After stints at Blackburn, Sheffield Wednesday, Wolves and Leeds, Michael Gray retired in 2010 at the age of 36.