January 4, 2013 by mapperleystag1
Only last season, Dwight Gayle was plying his trade in the sixth tier of English football. Now, in the early stages of 2013, it looks increasingly likely that the twenty-two year old will be appearing in the top flight sooner rather than later.
After failing to make the grade as a teenager at Arsenal, Gayle dropped all the way down to the Essex Senior League, joining Stansted F.C., for whom he went on to score a remarkable fifty-seven goals in the 2010-11 season. His lethal goalscoring record attracted the attention of League Two side, Dagenham & Redbridge, who signed him in the summer of 2011. However, Gayle was quickly sent out on a season-long loan to Bishop’s Stortford of the Conference North, where he starred in an otherwise mediocre season for the Hertfordshire outfit, scoring twenty-nine goals in forty-two games. On returning to the Daggers this year, he impressed in his first taste of the Football League, and in November, joined Championship strugglers Peterborough United on loan, with a view to making the move permanent if he made an impact.
With the departures of strikers Tyrone Barnett and Emile Sinclair for breaches of club discipline, Gayle was given his first opportunity by Darren Ferguson away at fellow strugglers, Ipswich Town. His first goal for the Posh came a week later, in their disappointing 4-1 defeat at home to Blackpool. Since then, Gayle has certainly made a significant impact, with his seven goals in nine games helping the Posh climb out of the relegation zone and win three games in a row for the first time at that level for twenty years. His combination of agility, work-rate, technical ability and speed of thought were showcased most clearly in his pivotal roles in Peterborough’s shock win away at league leaders Cardiff City, where his winning goal ended the Bluebirds’ 100% home record this campaign, and in his performance in Posh’s 5-4 thriller against Bolton Wanderers at London Road. Moreover, the noticeable improvement in the performances of strike partner Lee Tomlin since Gayle’s arrival can be attributed to the positive impact that the player has made, with their partnership one of the most successful in the league in the short time they have played together. Because of his abundance of natural ability combined with equal amounts of intelligence and determination, it quickly became a question not of whether Peterborough would want to sign him, but one of whether they would be beaten to his signature by a more prestigious club.
In the end, Peterborough gave their supporters an early Christmas present by signing the player on Christmas Eve, for an initial fee of £500 000, which could rise to £750 000. Therefore, Gayle becomes the latest in the long line of signings the Cambridgeshire club has made from the lower leagues, which includes players such as George Boyd, Aaron McLean, Craig Mackail-Smith and Ryan Bennett, who have gone on to have successful careers to date with the Posh, and in the latter three’s case, with other sides in the top two divisions as well. Unable to compete financially and in terms of stature alongside the majority of Championship clubs, the fact that Peterborough have developed such a substantial amount of top-quality lower league players is testament to both the scouting structure at the club, which from an outsider’s perspective, appears one of the most extensive and successful in the country in its capability to discover hidden talents, and in their ability to nurture these players, allowing them to prosper and adapt to a higher standard of football than they have previously experienced. Considering this, for a club that prides itself on this ability to unearth these lower-league rough diamonds, in Dwight Gayle Peterborough United may have really struck gold this time. Sadly, due to being cup-tied, Gayle will not be able to test himself against Premier League opposition Norwich City tomorrow. Despite this, expect him to be featuring against top flight opposition in the not too distant future.