Gray Bert Image 2 Oldham Athletic 1925

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Description

Goalkeeper Albert “Bert” Gray was born in Tredegar, Monmouthshire and first came to the attention of scouts from the Football League when he stood in for the injured goalkeeper for a local colliery side. He spent two years with Ebbw Vale during which time the club won the Southern League Welsh Section in 1921-22, going one better the following year to win the Southern League Championship.

Standing at 6 ft 3ins, Gray was one of the tallest players at the time and used his height to great effect; he was described as “a very capable goalkeeper, (who) was cool and safe and inspired confidence in his defenders”.

In May 1923, he moved to the Second Division with Oldham Athletic and made his Football League debut at Fulham that December. Gray made his international debut for Wales in the 1924 British Home Championship match against Scotland on 16th February 1924. The game at Ninian Park, Cardiff ended in a 2-0 victory for Wales, with goals from Willie Davies and Len Davies. Gray retained his place for the next two matches with victories over England and Ireland, thus enabling Wales to take the British Home Championship trophy for the second time in five years.

Gray only missed four Wales international matches between February 1924 and October 1929 during which time Wales again claimed the Championship trophy under captain Fred Keenor. He remained for four seasons at Oldham, making 101 first-team appearances before joining fellow Second Division club Manchester City for a fee of £2,250 in January 1927, where he displaced long term custodians Jim Goodchild and James Mitchell. He soon became a regular for his new club, helping them to win the Second Division Championship in 1927-28 when he played 32 games.

In the summer of 1929, the Football Association of Wales sent a party of players to tour Canada, with Gray and Len Evans sharing the goalkeeping duties. In an article welcoming the touring party, The Montreal Gazette described Gray as “well equipped for the position as he stands 6 feet 3 inches and should have little difficulty reaching high shots.” Gray was “in the glory of his manhood” at 29 years of age. His goalkeeping has been described as “majestic, and there is no exaggeration in this word”. During the tour, Wales played 15 matches in five weeks, winning them all with 61 goals scored and only ten conceded.

By the end of their first season in the First Division, Gray was out of favour at Maine Road and in August 1929 he was loaned for a season to the short-lived Manchester Central club. He left City after 70 appearances in 1930 and spent a year with Coventry City where he never played a first-team game, before joining Tranmere Rovers. Gray spent five seasons at the Prenton Park club, during which he was near ever present and they twice reached the Final of the Welsh Cup, losing to Bristol City in 1934, but winning the trophy the following year with a 1-0 victory over Chester.

Gray returned to the Wales side after a two year absence for three matches in October and November 1931, in the 1932 British Home Championship. Gray was appointed captain in Keenor’s absence for the match against Scotland on 31st October. Despite “(keeping) goal in fine style”, Gray conceded three goals with the Welsh only managing two in reply from Ernie Curtis.

In 1936, he applied for the manager’s job at Tranmere Rovers but was turned down and moved to fellow Third Division (North) club, Chester after 217 appearances for the Wirral club. He spent two seasons at Sealand Road making 83 appearances. He also returned to the Wales team. For five seasons, between October 1932 and March 1936, Roy John had played in goal for Wales, before Gray received a recall for the match against England at Cardiff on 17th October 1936. Gray retained his place for five matches and helped Wales take the British Home Championship once again. His final international appearance of 24 Wales caps in total came against Ireland on 16th March 1938 when Gray was already 37 years old. After a brief spell in Ireland at Irish League club Waterford in 1938, Gray wound up his career in the Cheshire League with Congleton Town in 1939.

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