Robert Gray was a popular inside forward who played 215 times for Thistle over two spells at Inchview and Meadowside, and became a favourite with supporters for his exciting forward play and goalscoring. Robert was a speedy player who also had excellent ball control and was noted for his shooting from distance. He scored 45 goals during his two spells with the club.
Gray began his career with junior side Lenzie FC, where he played alongside William Ward, who was later to become President of the Scottish League and a director of Partick Thistle. Gray came to Thistle’s attention after he played for the Scottish Junior select and joined the club towards the end of the 1896-97 season, making his debut against Kilmarnock in a Second Division match at Inchview Park.
From the start of the following season he was a regular for the club that was playing in the First Division for the first time, having been promoted at the end of the previous season, and he ended that season with six goals in ten league games. Gray played in a number of inside and outside forward positions, including making up a successful right wing partnership with veteran Willie Paul, before Everton signed him at the end of the 1898-99 season.
At Everton he joined up with another ex-Thistle favourite John Proudfoot, and played 20 times for the Goodison team, winning a Liverpool Cup winners medal. He also had spells at Nottingham Forest and Southampton during his three years in England.
Robert had come home to Kirkintilloch, and his job as a foundry worker, by the start of the 1902-03 season, and Thistle were keen to have him rejoin the club who had just been promoted again from the Second Division to the First. At Meadowside he joined up with Tom Harvey, Willie Howden, Andy Wilson and his ex-Everton teammates William Massie and Proudfoot, who were also in their second spells with Thistle.
These important players made up the backbone of the side that brought four seasons of success for the club. After establishing themselves in the First Division they went on to create a club record of eight successive victories in 1904-05 which took them to the brink of the top of the table. The following season saw further improvements and a final position just two points off third place in the League.
Robert’s artistic footwork and intelligent passing from inside left particularly helped Sam Kennedy score over 70 goals as they made up a feared partnership. In his two spells with Thistle he had played with and helped the two best centre forwards that Partick had ever seen.
At the end of the 1907-08 season Robert retired from playing football, joining Kirkintilloch Rob Roy as a committee member in 1909.
Appearances 216, goals 45.
Biography reproduced from Partick Thistle Legends – available now priced £15.95.
In 1905 the Glasgow News published a profile of Bobby Gray.
Like most of our popular footballers, Robert Gray, of the Thistle, is known on the football field, not by his surname, but familiar christian name, and often as he speeds along the wing the shout of “Go on yourself Bob!” may be heard all round the enclosure.
As is the case with most good players, he can suit himself to any position in the front rank, but is most at home at inside or outside left. As a junior he secured his international cap against England in 1898. In season 1898-99 he joined his present club, but in the following year he was transferred to Everton, and there he remained for a couple of seasons. This short space of time seemed to have satisfied him for he returned to Partick, and there he was only too readily made welcome by the Meadowside officials.
For the Thistle he has played for ever since, and at the present time is one of the most reliable playing members at the command of the directorate. One thing in Gray’s favour is his consistency. Week in and week out he displays the same good form. He is a grand dribbler, and being well built not easily dispossessed of the ball. When once past the half-backs he never hesitates to drive for goal, and when straight it takes a brilliant goalkeeper to keep the ball from finding its way to the back of the net.
In 1903 the Weekly Record published an interview with Robert Gray. You can read it here.
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