Starting out as a youth player for the Birmingham City academy, it was obvious to people involved with the club at the time that Demarai Gray had potential and would one day be a mainstay in the first-team side.
After making his debut last season Gray has been enjoying a breakthrough period with his club – he was starting to show glimpses of his talent under Lee Clark’s leadership last season.
After consistently impressing in the reserves team around 12 months ago Clark saw fit to hand him to his first professional contract and present him with a first team squad number.
Gray was one of a select group of other academy graduates to reach this feat, as well as fellow fan favourites Koby Arthur and Reece Brown – they all signed two and a half year professional deals with the club and have since been breaking through into the first team.
Since the arrival of Gary Rowett, Arthur has been one of the group to be starting consistently. Rowett has been experimenting with both Arthur and Gray in the starting fold at the same time and so far it has proved a good decision, as they share a unique chemistry when on the pitch and both inject pace and desire into the team.
Since the start of this season Gray in particular has been really starting to get into his own and is now finding his stride – he is beginning to play as though he has all the freedom in the world; he is an undeniable talent.
However, all of this comes at a cost. Since the start of his breakthrough campaign he has been eyed up by Premier League club Crystal Palace, as well as other clubs in the summer.
Fortunately for the Blues all offers were rejected by then manager Clark, and the club have made it common knowledge where they stand with the player, expressing their desire to keep him.
Now that Rowett is at the helm, he has made it abundantly clear that these academy players, Gray in particular, are very much a part of his future plans to take the club forward and hopefully one day return to the Premier League.