Dwight Gayle is one of the most confusing players to have played in black and white. Being so lethal in front of a Championship goal, he cannot replicate any of the same effectiveness in the Premier League.
Throughout this article we take a look at his footballing journey, analyse his time in the North East, and see what the strikers future may hold.
Born in London 30 years ago, Gayle played football from an early age. Catching the eye of scouts as a talented kid with an eye for goal, he earned a place in the Arsenal youth academy. He spent a few years here, but as he has expressed publicly, felt a huge sense of disappointment when he was released at the age of 12.
With the luxury option of a path to Premier League football derailed, Gayle did not give up on pursuing his dream.
In 2007 Gayle was plying his trade in the Essex Olympian Football League, with a team called Ryan. This league is ranked 11th in the Pyramid of English football, making up the foot of the table for recognised football leagues in England.
After spending 2 years here, the striker progressed up to the 9th tier with Stansted, in the Essex Senior Football League. His incredible proficiency in front of goal, appearing on the score sheet 57 times throughout the 2010/11 season, caught the attention of teams higher up the footballing ladder.
Gayle was then quickly snapped up by League Two team, Dagenham and Redbridge. Although there was still a large distance separating the attacker from the Premier League, his trajectory was arrowing towards an eventual return to the top division.
The striker had to wait for his debut in League Two, as the club opted to loan him out for the 2011/12 season. After picking up a further 29 goals while on loan at Bishops Stortford, his parent club decided to place their trust in the young striker.
Gayle subsequently signed a 3 year deal with Dagenham and Redbridge. His goal scoring prowess was not interrupted in League Two, bagging 7 goals in 18 appearances, before his journey through the tiers of English football continued with a move to Peterborough in November 2012.
The deal included an initial loan agreement between the two clubs, allowing Peterborough to test Gayle’s ability in the higher levels before making the deal permanent.
The manager, Darren Ferguson described the forward as a great listener, which allowed him to pick things up quickly. The manager saw a real player in Gayle, and claimed he would be destined for a great career if he continued his work ethic.
With the striker going on to score 5 goals in his first 6 games, the club wasted no time in making the deal permanent. For a fee of around £500,000, Gayle signed a contract with the League One club.
Unfortunately for the club, even with Gayle’s contribution, they could not stave off relegation at the end of the campaign. Returning back to League One was not a viable option for Gayle, and when a club heading the other direction, to the Premier League, came in for his services, it was an offer that could not be refused.
It was reported that Crystal Palace paid a then club record fee of £4.5 million for the forward. This transfer offered an eye-watering £3 million profit to Peterborough who had signed Gayle just 7 months previously, while his former club Dagenham and Redbridge was entitled to £1 million due to a sell on clause in his contract.
The move to Crystal Palace represented Gayle with the light at the end of the tunnel. From being released as a kid from Arsenal, his dogged willingness to return to the top flight allowed him to shift through the divisions.
The English frontman spent 3 years with the Eagles, but failed to ever nail down a starting place. He featured heavily in cup competitions, racking up 10 goals in 10 appearances throughout the early rounds of both the League Cup and the FA Cup.
With the clear presence of a goal scoring ability, it was arguably the frequent injuries which disrupted Gayle’s rhythm of Premier League games. He scored some big goals for the London based club, including the last gasp brace which snatched the title away from Liverpool.
In his 3 seasons at the club, he was their top scorer amongst all competitions, even with a lack of game time.
Life at Newcastle
Following our relegation to the Championship, Rafa Benitez identified Dwight Gayle as a key ingredient for instant promotion.
Gayle shouldered the responsibility of leading the line for Newcastle all season. With Mitrovic out of favour, and Daryl Murphy bought in as a back up option, the striker became the focal point of our attack, and did not disappoint.
He ended our Championship season as the leagues top scorer with 23 goals, becoming the first player since Alan Shearer to net more than 20 goals in a single campaign for the Toon Army, even with the disruption of hamstring injuries.
Gayle scored not only a large number of goals, but also during significant moments. Firstly, after starting the season with back to back defeats, the victory against Reading was of immense importance. Gayle contributed 2 goals in this game as we ran out eventual 4-1 winners and truly kick started our push for the title.
Further through the season, I personally believe the brace at Elland Road was a real turning point. Initially pouncing on an error by Rob Green, Gayle notched us ahead before adding a further goal in what turned out to be a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory. This laid the foundation for our formidable away record and dealt fellow promotion hunters Leeds United a real blow.
You cannot mention Dwight Gayle without also mentioning the sensational turnaround we witnessed against Norwich. Eventually winning the game after trailing 3-2 in the 94th minute, Gayle contributed not just the 96th minute winner, but ended the day with a hatrick.
Disappointingly, his return to the Premier League was not anywhere near as successful. His apparent lack of goals could not be pinpointed to a lack of game time, with the striker starting 23 times throughout the 2017/18 season, more so his lack of confidence and rashness of decision making was responsible for his return of just 6 goals in the Premier League.
When analysing these goals further, the points return from these matches detract further significance from his contributions. They earned us just a single point across the season, with his brace against Bournemouth resulting in a 2-2 draw. His other goals came in defeats against Manchester United, Chelsea, and Leicester, while he scored in the 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea on the final day of the season.
In the following campaign Gayle was loaned out to West Brom, with Salomon Rondon heading in the other direct. Unfortunately for Gayle, this loan switch was probably the most he contributed to Newcastle, in terms of Premier League output. With Rondon in our team, our frontline had the focal point it had been crying out for, and the performance of the team lifted.
While on loan at West Brom, he continued his explosive goal scoring abilities in the Championship, matching his previous tally with an impressive 23 goals. Gayle was also credited with the clubs Supporters Player of the Year award as the Baggies fell just short of promotion, losing to Aston Villa in the Play-Offs.
Back at Newcastle, and back in the Premier League, Gayle has still not found any sense of goal scoring form when he has been given the chance. Although Joelinton has been tasked with leading the line, the misfiring Brazilian has not been showed up by Gayle when on the pitch. In 12 appearances, 4 from the start, and 8 from the bench, the Englishman is yet to score this season.
In the most recent fixture at St Marys, before the suspension of football, the forward passed up numerous opportunities. A player in form would have been leaving the pitch with the match ball after hitting a hatrick, but in contrast Gayle left the pitch empty handed without adding his name to the score sheet.
What the future may hold
It is unknown why Gayle cannot continue his goal scoring form when bridging the gap between England’s top flight, and the Championship. Perhaps his shortcomings go full circle to his release from Arsenal as a youngster. Perhaps he puts too much pressure on himself in the Premier League. Perhaps the step up in level is too much to ask from the striker.
One thing for certain, is that Gayle is not the solution to our misfiring attack. Do no get me wrong, I am very grateful for his performances during the 2016/17 season as he was integral in our promotion, however I feel he would be best to make a move back to the Championship.
I am sure the demand would be high, and with the transfer fee we recoup, we could bring in somebody more suited to the Premier League who can help the club progress.
What do you make of Dwight Gayle’s Newcastle United career, a missed opportunity?
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