Archie Gray playing for Leeds is football at its romantic best - but accounts don’t allow for it (2024)

If you were transported back to Elland Road on any given Saturday between now and the 1960s, you’d be liable to run into someone with Gray DNA.

Whether it was Eddie running down the wing, or Frank at full-back, or Andy playing up front, they were a fairly consistent presence on the pitch in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Then Eddie took his turn on the sidelines, managing the club in the 1980s, and working as assistant manager to David O’Leary in the late 1990s and early 2000s before settling into the commentary box.


Essentially, if you knew Leeds United, you knew the Grays.

Eddie had to retire from commentary a few years ago but just when the link to the Grays seemed to be weakening, the chatter started around a new Gray… Archie. There was a kid in the academy, the son of Andy, grandson of Frank, who was the next big thing. He began training with the first team at just 15, with the club having to agree terms with his high school to allow it.

Then, in the middle of an injury and Covid-19 crisis, he was put on the bench for a Premier League match. If he had come on, he would have become Leeds’s youngest-ever player — a record that stretches back to Peter Lorimer (15 years and 289 days) in May 1962.

But Marcelo Bielsa did not substitute him on. The record was not broken, and Gray had to wait until last summer to make his first senior appearance in a Leeds shirt. He was thrown in from the start of the campaign under Daniel Farke and barely left the team. At 18, he made 44 appearances in his debut campaign.


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Leeds lost the Championship play-off final, and that, it turns out, is expected to be that. It looks as though he will be leaving, maybe to Tottenham, having been pursued by several teams across the Premier League and Europe. Not like great uncle Eddie, who played for one club (Leeds) for 17 years and only ever pulled on one other shirt: Scotland’s. Not like grandpa Frank either, who did leave Leeds after nine years for Nottingham Forest, where he won the European Cup, but then returned to Leeds — his two spells totalling 15 years.

But then, what is to be expected? Leeds have to make a sale this summer to deal with not being promoted to the Premier League. It didn’t matter that they have signed a big sponsorship deal with Red Bull, who now own part of the club. Whether letting Gray go is a consequence of losses or the English Football League’s profit and loss system, there is no better way of fixing either situation than selling an academy-grown player.

Archie Gray playing for Leeds is football at its romantic best - but accounts don’t allow for it (2)

Gray meeting fans last season (George Wood/Getty Images)

So, Leeds fan Archie Gray will likely leave, probably to play Premier League football, having been in tears on the pitch when Leeds lost the play-off final at Wembley in May. Celtic fan Eddie will be in his customary seat in the stands at Elland Road next season, almost certainly without a family member to watch — although Gray’s brother Harry is regarded as a player of some potential in Leeds’s academy.


But what will the hope there be? Will it be any different if Harry makes his debut?

With Archie, realistically, the vultures would have circled at some point. Leeds might not have been a Championship carcass beyond this coming season, but as a lower-end Premier League side, they would still have been a casualty to any ‘Big Six’ birds of prey wanting to swoop. Leeds in the Premier League might have got another season out of Gray before having to sell him. They might even have got two. But they would either have fallen to the profit and sustainability regulations (PSR), selling on a homegrown prospect to fund a series of amortised signings and a tilt at the Europa League, or Gray’s own ambitions.


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As a player of serious potential, Gray was never going to be happy forever without challenging at the top end of the game. It’s hard to see a route to that for a club such as Leeds. And that’s the difference between Gray in 2024 and the Grays of the 1960s and 1970s. When Eddie arrived at Leeds in 1965, Leeds were only four years removed from fighting relegation to the third tier. In the season in which he made his debut, Leeds finished second in the top flight and got to the semi-finals of the Fairs Cup, a precursor to the Europa League. By 1969, they were league champions and by 1975 they had reached the European Cup final. Could anyone have realistically pictured Leeds as they are today reaching the Champions League final by 2033?

Gray’s anticipated departure costs fans one, maybe two extra seasons of watching a very talented kid who sang along with Marching on Together. From the club’s perspective, a season or two in the Premier League probably doubles his transfer fee. It’s the romance of the game that will be leaving with Gray; the idea that he could have played alongside his brother Harry, as Eddie did with Frank.

Archie himself hoped for that: “I wouldn’t tell him this myself, but it’s my dream to play with Harry one day.” Or there’s the idea that Gray could have been there for 15 years, pushing Leeds, making the club grow around him, as Don Revie’s boys did as they developed.


This might be too soon to mourn his loss forever. After all, he is a third-generation Gray, and his line has all left Leeds and then come back. Grandpa Frank did, as did his dad Andy. And at least 49ers Enterprises have learned a lesson about fan sentiment, given the reaction to his mooted move to Brentford on Saturday night. Football, though, seems to have moved past players like Gray developing and staying — primarily — with one club. Just see the PSR deals taking place in the Premier League. The accounts don’t allow for it.

The sadness of Gray’s exit is very much a case of what might have been. But what might have been when it comes to that footballing dream, a homegrown star taking pride of place on the pitch, increasingly feels like it belongs to a different generation.


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(Top photo: George Wood via Getty Images)

Archie Gray playing for Leeds is football at its romantic best - but accounts don’t allow for it (5)Archie Gray playing for Leeds is football at its romantic best - but accounts don’t allow for it (6)

Amitai Winehouse is a Senior Editor for The Athletic, based in London. He previously worked at the Daily Mail, Telegraph and the Yorkshire Evening Post and was shortlisted for the SJA Young Sportswriter of the Year in 2018. Follow Amitai on Twitter @awinehouse1

Archie Gray playing for Leeds is football at its romantic best - but accounts don’t allow for it (2024)


Have Spurs signed Archie Gray? ›

Tottenham have completed the signing of teenage midfielder Archie Gray from Leeds. The 18-year-old moves to the North London club in a deal worth around £25m to £30m, with Joe Rodon - who spent last season on loan at Leeds - moving to Elland Road permanently in the opposite direction on a four-year deal.

Who is Archie Gray's father? ›

Fathers and sons who have played in Premier League

But Archie Gray's story is remarkable and goes beyond just one generation. The 18-year-old's dad is Andy Gray, who played 51 times in the Premier League, for Leeds, Archie's former club, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland. Archie's grandfather is Frank Gray.

Did Andy Grey play for Leeds United? ›

Andy Gray joined Leeds as a Youth Trainee and signed professional forms in the summer of 1995. He played 22 league games for United before a £200, 000 move to Nottingham Forest in September 1998.

Where is Archie Gray from? ›

Born in Durham, Archie joined Leeds at Under-9 level and after progressing well through their Academy system, picked up his first involvement with their first team in 2021 at the age of just 15, when he was part of their matchday squad in the Premier League.

Who have Spurs signed recently? ›

Tottenham have announced the signing of midfielder Archie Gray from Leeds United in a deal worth between £30m and £40m. The 18-year-old Leeds academy graduate has signed a six-year deal and becomes Ange Postecoglou's second summer signing, after Timo Werner re-joined the club on loan from RB Leipzig.

How much is Archie Gray earning? ›

SeasonGross P/W (GBP)Adj. Gross (2024, GBP)
2023-2024£ 5,000£ 260,000
Total£ 260,000

How many of the Gray family have played for the Leeds? ›

Gray is a third-generation Leeds player, with his father Andy and his grandfather Frank both having played for the club. His great uncle, Eddie, is Leeds royalty, having played for, managed and coached the side over an association that began in 1965.

How much did wolves pay for Andy Gray? ›

Gray moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers in September 1979 for a then-British record £1.5 million.

Who signed for Tottenham Hotspur on 2011? ›

Cameron Lancaster Centre-Forward17Spurs U18 England
Harry Kane Centre-Forward16Spurs U18 England
Robbie Keane Centre-Forward30West Ham Premier League
David Bentley Right Midfield26Birmingham Premier League
38 more rows

When did Campbell leave Spurs? ›

Sunday, April 8, 2001.

How long has Son been playing for Spurs? ›

Player Season Stats. South Korean international superstar Heung-Min Son has endeared himself to the Spurs faithful with some fantastic goalscoring displays since signing from Bayer Leverkusen in August, 2015.

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