The very sad news was announced yesterday that ex Celtic player, Stuart Gray, had passed away after suffering from a serious condition.
It was something of a coup for Celtic in 1992 when Stuart signed for the Celts. Born in England, the son of the renowned Leeds and Scotland player Eddie Gray, Stuart was coveted by many clubs in the UK, and although Celtic was seen as a surprise choice, he had extended family in Glasgow as his base, a family who were all said to be huge Celtic fans and who shared in the delight of this young man signing for their favourite team.
A classy left sided midfielder, Stuart made his Celtic debut in May 1993, when Liam Brady was trying out some new young blood at the end of a disappointing season, and he impressed very much in a 1-0 win, being unlucky not to score when Dons’ goalie, Theo Snelders, defied him with a fine save from his powerful shot.
It was only when Tommy Burns arrived in the summer of 1994 that Stuart began to play more games. Tommy had faith in young players such as Stuart, Simon Donnelly, Barry Smith, and Brian McLaughlin as he tried to improve Celtic’s fortunes. However, as money was made available for new signings, quality players arrived in midfield such as Phil O’Donnell and Morten Wieghorst so Stuart’s appearances became limited after that.
Perhaps his best game in Celtic colours came at Ibrox in January 1995 when a severely under strength Celtic side gained a valuable 1-1 draw against a very strong Rangers outfit, on a night when injuries had meant that Stuart was forced to play in the unusual position of left back. Youngsters, Brian O’Neill, Paul Byrne, Brian McLaughlin and Stuart, all impressed on the night, with Byrne scoring a tremendous volleyed equaliser for the young Celts, who could actually have won it in the end.
When Wim Jansen took over in 1997 as manager, Stuart was on the periphery of the squad and he was reunited with Tommy Burns at Reading in 1998 when he moved south in a £100,000 deal.
It’s an interesting aside that Stuart played the role of his dad, Eddie, in the highly renowned 2009 film, The Damned United, which focused on Brian Clough’s notorious, short time as Leeds manager in 1974.
It’s difficult enough cataloguing the careers of ex Celtic players when they pass away, but this one is especially difficult. Stuart Gray was only 50 years old and was someone still in the prime of his life. The thoughts and prayers of all Celtic fans will be with Eddie Gray and his family at this extremely difficult time. Stuart will be remembered around Parkhead with great fondness by those who saw him play.
May he rest in peace.