Diamonds In The Rough - Dwight Gayle
Despite being only 22, Dwight Gayle is without doubt one of the most dangerous strikers in League Two. The pint sized forward has pace in bundles, something that causes a nightmare for previously assured defenders who now find him creeping in behind. Add to that his predatory instincts when faced with the frame of the goal, and it makes him a dangerous prospect for defences of all shapes and sizes.
Dwight's career though didn't start the way he would have perhaps wanted, being released by Arsenal in 2009. After that setback, he kicked on in the lower levels and began to show what he was about. In his first competitive season he scored an astonishing 57 goals for Stansted, as a result he was snapped up straight away by John Still's Dagenham & Redbridge side. Due to a strict wage structure though, he was immediately sent out on loan to Blue Square North side Bishops Stortford.
Whilst on loan at the Hertfordshire club, he was absolutely unstoppable, netting a club record 42 goals over the course of the season, including several hat tricks. This feat was made all the more impressive by the fact that Stortford were a mid table side, scoring goals in an average side is a very tough task. He left them with yet another hat trick in a 4-0 win over Eastwood Town on the last day of the season boosted by the news that Daggers boss John Still had claimed Dwight was in his thoughts for the coming season.
One thing that really struck the eye whilst at Stortford was Dwight's ability to cut inside, preferably from a 4-3-3 formation. This not only enabled him to create chances for himself, but for others as well. During the pre season of 2012/2013, he was deployed in this role as well as a central striker, both of which paid dividends. His talent was clear and it prompted calls from Stortford's assistant manager that Dwight that is “one for the future” and that he could possibly eclipse the feats achieved by the likes of Steve Morison.
His early days at Dagenham have been bright, looking like a real danger-man for the Essex side. His quick footwork has already terrorised defences as the Daggers have seen two penalties awarded for fouls on Gayle in successive games. He certainly has a glut of goals in him, and he's a sought after player as the Daggers turned down a £300,000 offer from Gillingham on Transfer Deadline Day. His talents are recognised, in an average team he could well net 20, and in a top of the league team he could well score 40 he is that good.
He does need to improve on his aerial ability, but being a short player that's never going to be his strong point. His main attribute is that he's a natural finisher, and at the moment those are in short supply which is why he's got a wonderful career ahead of him. The beauty of his play is that he's very manoeuvrable, able to switch sides and create chances/opportunities no matter where he plays.
So far he has two goals to his name in League Two, both of which were of his own making. The first was a penalty as previously described that he won himself. The second saw his quick footwork beat a Southend defender before firing through the ‘keeper's legs with an assured strike. That's yet another positive of his play, no matter what way the tide is going in the game, he is always a threat. A hopeful punt up-field can quickly become a devastating ball through after Dwight's pace enables him to latch onto the ball and finish it smoothly.
Whether he'll be at Dagenham & Redbridge next season remains to be seen, I for one hope we can keep hold of him for a while yet. Whatever happen's though, a wonderful career beckons for the youngster who will definitely play in the Championship and above. Under the guidance of John Still, Dwight will become a fantastic player and wherever he goes after Dagenham will have inherited a true talent.