Rafa Benitez encourages Demarai Gray to remain mentally focused

Winger Gray fired the Toffees into the lead at Brighton, before Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s penalty sealed a 2-0 win.

Demarai Gray, pictured, has been praised by Rafa Benitez (Gareth Fuller/PA)

By By Nick Purewal, PA

Rafa Benitez has warned Demarai Gray not to let his fine start at Everton go to his head.

Winger Gray fired the Toffees into the lead at Brighton, before Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s penalty sealed a 2-0 Premier League win on Saturday.

Former Leicester star Gray joined Everton this summer in a bargain £1.5million move after just six months at Bayer Leverkusen, and has made a fast start to life at Goodison Park.

The 25-year-old has already netted two goals in three Premier League games, but boss Benitez has told him to keep his head down.

“I tell him so many times, he’s done nothing yet, he has to carry on training well, and if he does, he has the ability to influence games,” said Benitez.

“I was following him when he was at Leicester, and we knew what we could expect from him.

“He has the quality to make a difference, it is just to make sure that mentally he is strong enough to continue in the same way as he is now.

“He is working hard in training sessions, he is improving and has more confidence and is always pushing to play.

“If he keeps training well he has the ability to make the difference in games.”

Benitez’s Liverpool past obviously raised eyebrows when he took on the Everton role, but the Spaniard paid tribute to the Toffees fans for accepting him in the job.

“I think that from the beginning the reception has been great,” said Benitez.

“Obviously we are in the period of the time of social media and anyone on twitter or instagram can say something.

“But the reality is we have been in the city for a while, we know the Scousers, what they want, the Everton fans know how we love the city and they appreciate that.

“And we are fighting for them.”

While Everton extended their unbeaten league start to three matches, Brighton surrendered their 100 per cent record.

Graham Potter’s side were undone tactically by the Amex Stadium visitors, in a disappointing follow-up to two straight victories.

Pacy full-back Tariq Lamptey’s impending return will boost the Seagulls’ options, but Potter insisted the former Chelsea man cannot be rushed back into action from serious hamstring trouble.

“We’re hopeful of having Tariq back in that next block of games,” said Potter.

“But that of course depends how he goes in the next couple of weeks.

“He’s getting stronger and we’re incorporating him with more time with the group.

“The next step is building up his minutes to play football and for the demands of the Premier League, and he’s making good progress.”

Brighton centre-back Jan Paul Van Hecke has joined Sky Bet Championship club Blackburn on a season-long loan.

Van Hecke joined Brighton from NAC Breda in September 2020.

The 21-year-old spent last season on loan at Heerenveen in his native Holland, making 31 appearances.

Today's Headlines

More Soccer

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices