Frank Gray was a big-name in football by the time he arrived at Sunderland. Signed by Lawrie McMenemy, the former Leeds and Forest player – who’d also won the European Cup – ended up being a popular player at Roker Park over the course of his four seasons at the club.
On this day in 1988, however, it was Gray’s off-field ambitions that were making the headlines.
Unable to nail down a place in Denis Smith’s starting XI on a regular basis, Gray was on a week-to-week contract, and had unsuccessfully applied for the vacant manager’s job at Carlisle United.
Denis Smith, vociferous in his praise of Gray the player, had this advice:
He has more than an interested in that side of the game and the fact he is a well known name in the game should be an advantage.
I would also advise him to get an FA coaching badge.
In remarks that were typical of Smith, he then went on:
A lot of people in the game don’t believe in them. My first-team coach Viv Busby doesn’t have one and he is good at his job.
But it doesn’t do any harm to be able to wave a piece of paper under someone’s nose.
Gray spent another season as a player at Roker, re-establishing himself in the team during the 88-89 Division Two season, before joining Darlington as assistant manager to Brian Little.
He took over as manager from Little as the former Villa striker joined Leicester as manager. And, while he managed a few clubs outside of the football league, his stint as Darlo boss remains the only time he managed in the football league.
Whether or not he got his coaching badges is unknown.