Swansea City Under-23s Plymouth Argyle
8th November 2016
Alex Bray is relishing the opportunity to feature against his former loan club Plymouth Argyle in tonight's crunch Checkatrade Trophy Group B tie at the Liberty Stadium (7.45pm).
The Bath-born winger, who began his youth career at Swindon Town before making a switch to Swansea City's Academy in 2010, has featured nine times for the club's high-flying under-23s this season.
The 21-year-old made his senior debut with the Pilgrims whilst on loan at Home Park in 2014 before a serious injury ruled him out of the game for almost a year-and-a-half.
"I had a great pre-season that year," he said. "I went to Chicago with the first-team under Gary Monk and featured for them against Chivas and Minnesota United before playing Plymouth in a friendly where we won 4-0.
"It was soon after that John Sheridan - who was manager at the time - came in for me. Looking back I remember I was thrilled to get the opportunity to go on loan with a Football League side.
"I was there for a week, got on well with everyone there, the fans were brilliant, I was loving the opportunity I had been given and things were looking good.
"I made my debut off the bench against Luton, but ten minutes into the match my world in football came crashing down.
"I was running down the line, checked back inside and then I felt something crunch. I knew then that something bad had happened."
Bray had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
Despite a cruel blow which severely disrupted the young player's career, he still manages to speak positively about his experience at Home Park.
"That's football. Sometimes you just have to pick yourself up and get going again," he says.
"I do feel robbed I never got a full chance to play in the Football League on loan, but injuries happen and there will hopefully be other opportunities in my career."
Since returning to action in Swans colours back in January, Bray has made a number of appearances within the academy, helping last season's U21s reach the play-offs.
The winger has also been involved in the majority of matches for the U23s this season, including helping them to a 2-1 win over Newport County in the Checkatrade Trophy last month.
The victory helped set up tonight's winner-takes-all clash against Plymouth, with the victors progressing to the knockout stage of the competition.
"It has been great to have played my part with the Swans over the last ten months," Bray added.
"Tuesday is such an important game for us. If we win on the night we go into the next round of the competition. If we lose, we are out - very simple.
"No-one expected any academy teams to get through, so it would be good to prove people wrong that young players are good enough to perform on this sort of stage.
"If I get the chance to play I have to prove to the Swansea and Plymouth fans of the player I am. I feel I have definitely improved my game mentally, physically and technically and I just want to prove that to people.
"You never know what can happen in a cup like this. I think the competition is a really good opportunity for young players like myself to break through into senior football.
"I know some fans aren't happy with it because they see it as 'B team football' but the competition really is helping us develop.
"More people need to give it a chance because it is a great shop window to see the next generation of players coming through and I hope Swans fans come out to support us on Tuesday."
GET YOUR TICKETS
Swans supporters can purchase their ticket online HERE, in-person on the night or by contacting 0844 815 6665 to pre-order. Tickets prices are as follows:
Adult - £5
Concessions* - £3
U16s - £1
*Concessions are classed as Seniors (60+), Students with NUS card.