Demarai Gray has had much success at the club level, coming through the youth system at Birmingham City, winning the Premier League with Leicester City, had a brief stint with German club Bayer Leverkusen and is now at home with Everton.
But Gray has always really enjoyed redefining the expectations of himself by pushing to the next level, which is why his move to represent Jamaica could not have come at a better time, as he believes there is much for him to achieve on the international stage.
The 26-year-old represented England at the under-21 level where he earned 26 caps between 2016 and 2018 and was a member of the senior team to the 2018 World Cup in Russia but did not feature in any game.
It is the lack of opportunities with the England senior team, that influenced Gray’s decision to obtain a Jamaican passport through his maternal grandparents, and he has set himself a long-term goal of helping the Reggae Boyz reach a major tournament.
“Obviously the country has been trying to get a hold of me for a long time, so when you feel wanted and valued, it is always great for my confidence based on where I am at in my career and the things I want to achieve and stuff. Now is the right time to hit those targets and I’m getting to the peak of my career so I’m ready, I’m at a good point and I want to create memories and history with the country,” Gray declared.
“We (the players) respect the support of the fans, me personally, I love the vibe and the culture and hopefully with the fans, we can come together as one big nation and create good things. Obviously, now it’s time for the Gold Cup but in the long run, I think we will keep improving, keeping getting stronger as a team and with the support of the fans we can do special stuff,” he added.
The winger’s first assignment with the Reggae Boyz will be a baptism of fire of sorts, as Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side are set to open their Concacaf Gold Cup campaign with Group A against reigning seven-time champion United States at Soldier Field in Chicago later this evening at 9:06pm Jamaica time. Trinidad and Tobago and first-timer St Kitts and Nevis are also a part of the group.
Having endured the lengthy process that comes with switching allegiance, Gray is intent on making it count by producing a string of his usual quality and eye-catching performances.
“It’s good to finally be her I kind of feel like it’s been a long time coming, it was not a simple process so to get it over the line in time for this tournament was important and good for me.
I’m just grateful and obviously proud to represent Jamaica and hopefully I can put in some good performances, score some goals and create some history for Jamaica,” Gray reasoned.
“I am feeling good after a fairly short break, I’m refreshed, obviously the conditions are tough here but over the next few days, hopefully, I will adapt to it and hopefully I’ll get off to a good start,” he said.
That Gray found it so easy to settle in with the Reggae Boyz, comes from the fact that he has not only rubbed shoulders with the other English-based players before, but because they all have the same ambition and goal –to make Jamaica proud.
“I am excited to be around the boys I know it’s a strong team everyone is together, and the vibes is good and stuff so it’s good so far. I played with A’mari [Bell] at the youth level and Bailey in Germany where he helped me settle in there as well and he was on me about joining the (Reggae Boyz) team and Wes Morgan as well when he was at Leicester told me about stuff here and the ambitions,” Gray shared.
“Then I met the manager and he expanded on it, so collectively a lot of people influenced my decision but personally I’ve been looking forward to doing this, so it’s good to finally settle in. Where I am at now in my career, there are things I want to achieve and I feel like I can do that here in Jamaica and like I said, the whole team is positive and I feel like it’s a good start being here at the Gold Cup, it’s an achievement,” he noted.
Given his blossoming form, his confidence on the ball and his willingness to take on his man, the soft-spoken player will certainly complement the likes of Bailey, Michail Antonio, Shamar Nicholson and others in what is without a doubt, a quality team on paper.
“Like a lot of the boys are saying, it’s probably the strongest squad they have been involved in, so I am happy to influence and play my part to help the team achieve things in the tournament and obviously in the future as well, reach the next World Cup and things like that.
“So, I think it’s exciting times for Jamaica, not only now, because the next few years, it’s only going to get stronger. So we can look long term, but for now, we are just focused on this tournament and making sure that we get a good start,” Gray ended.