13.02.2021Bayer 04

Gray: ‘Had to get out of my comfort zone’

Demarai Gray can look back at a successful debut in a Werkself shirt: The 24-year-old winter signing from Premier League club Leicester City came off the bench to score the final goal in the 5-2 win against VfB Stuttgart. Ahead of the home game against FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday 13 February (kick-off: 15.30 CET), the winger talks about his intensive preparation for Bayer 04 and the differences between the Bundesliga and the Premier League in an interview in the current BayArena Aktuell.

Demarai, congratulations on your first game. Your first minutes in the Bundesliga and a goal straight away to make it 5-2 against VfB Stuttgart. Your debut after just two full training sessions was a complete success.
It was a good start for me and I’m very happy about my goal. But the most important thing is we picked up the three points as a team. The past days and weeks haven’t been easy for the team but we produced a good response.

How did you see the game and your goal?
We stayed calm after Stuttgart pulled a goal back and we defended well. The goal for 3-1 took the pressure off us a bit and we did well getting the game over the line. I think we found the right answers overall even though there are definitely areas where we have to improve. And with my goal: It was a counter-attack and the pass from Kerem Demirbay came at just at the right moment and I hit it well into the corner of the net. Our style of play obviously suits us strikers.



You mentioned the Werkself style of play. It’s said you really did a lot of work finding out about your new club.
That’s right. Before I came here, I watched a lot of Bayer 04 games on video. I just wanted to know and understand how the team plays and what the coach expects and demands from the team on the pitch.

In January 2016 you moved from your hometown club Birmingham City to Leicester City and a few months later sensationally became the champion of England with your new team. How difficult was it to leave the club now?
It was very difficult. At Leicester City I didn’t just become a champion of England but also fulfilled my dream of being a Premier League player. I reached a new level at the Foxes. Not forgetting: Birmingham and Leicester are very close to each other by car. I always felt at home there. It wasn’t easy to leave that familiar environment. But I came to the conclusion that I had to get out of my comfort zone to take the next step in my development. I conscientiously accepted the challenges of Bayer Leverkusen and Germany. I could have stayed in England as there were offers.

What other reasons were decisive for your move to Leverkusen?
I like the club and its philosophy. Young players get a chance here and I immediately had a good feeling about Peter Bosz. We spoke to each other twice on the phone. His philosophy is great. He always wants his teams to have the ball and through good positional play set the strikers up with the chances to finish. And if we lose the ball then we want to win it back straight away through counter pressing. Perfect for a striker like me. You have to imagine it: We had 24 shots on goal against Stuttgart. 24 shots on goal – incredible.


Leon Bailey, Moussa Diaby, Karim Bellarabi, and now Jeremie Frimpong and youself: Bayer 04 have a lot of options on the wings. What do you think your chances are here?
Leverkusen are a club with ambitions in Europe. We’ve got a lot of games coming up in the next few weeks. So, I’m confident I’ll get my chance. On top of that, I want to learn. In every training session, in every meeting and off the pitch. That’s one reason why I brought my agent and my uncle with me at the start but they’ve both gone home again now. As I said: I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

Have you identified any fundamental differences between football in the Premier League and the Bundesliga?
I definitely can’t give a comprehensive assessment after just one game. But my first impression is that things aren’t quite as hectic here as in England. It’s always to and fro and the whole game is very physical. Here it’s more about tactics. Every player has a number of jobs to do. Both in the game and in the game without the ball. That’s cool.

The interview comes from the BayArena Aktuell match magazine for the home game against FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday 13 February (kick-off: 15.30 CET). HERE is the online edition.

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