Having excelled for Peterborough this season, could one of their most promising players be on his way to Villa Park?
Saturday 22 December 2012 – that was the day I first saw Dwight Gayle kick a football. But “kick” doesn’t do what I saw justice.
Peterborough’s then-on-loan striker scored the second in his side’s 5-4 home win over Bolton – an outstanding right-foot volley that flew into the top corner before the ‘keeper could even think about moving.
That strike made it five goals in four starts for the Posh since his move from Dagenham and Redbridge. It also prompted Darren Ferguson to sanction a permanent deal worth £750,000 the following Monday.
Having only signed professional terms with the League Two side in 2011, it was a swift step-up for the 22-year-old. But it was a step he took with ease, scoring a total 13 goals in Peterborough’s failed attempt to avoid relegation from the Championship.
And now he is being linked with another move, another step up, with talk that both QPR and Aston Villa are interested in his signature.
Having already shown he has the beating of the league’s defences, Harry Redknapp would do well to secure his services as he plots the London side’s return to the top flight. But should the reports be true that Villa manager Paul Lambert is considering a move for Gayle, surely there is only one winner.
Lambert has already shown in the signings of Matthew Lowton, Ashley Westwood and Jordan Bowery that he is not averse to lower league purchases. And as practically his entire first team shows, he is not afraid to throw youth in at the deep end.
With Christian Benteke, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann all competing for forward positions, Gayle will not find it easy breaking into the team. But should he wish to ply his trade in the top flight, Villa Park is undoubtedly the best destination for a young player seeking both to learn and to play.
Reports suggest Gayle is now valued at £4million. And while QPR are likely to raise far more than that with the inevitable sale of a number of current players, it will be interesting to see if Lambert takes a risk.
He did so with Benteke, who has repaid him many times over. Dwight Gayle is not of the same calibre…yet. But his potential is clear to see. And a move to Lambert’s exciting new generation would see the Hollywood ending for a player who could never have seen this coming.
Could Gayle be Lambert's next shrewd signing? And who else should he attempt to sign this summer?
image: © ell-r-brown