YORK City’s new striker James Gray has admitted he is surprised to see former Wrexham team-mates Sean Newton, Simon Heslop and Adriano Moke plying their trade in sixth-tier football.

Gray has joined forces again with the midfield trio following his one-month loan switch from National League Torquay and still believes each player could be a force at that level of the game.

But the 25-year-old forward reasoned that City, who were still a Football League outfit 18 months ago, remain an attractive option for himself and his old pals.

He said: “I’ve played in the same team as Hessie, Newts and Mokes when we were probably favourites to win the league above. Newts has a great left foot – one of the best of anybody I have played with.

“He’ll also give you everything he’s got every week. Hessie gets up and down, is fantastic on the ball and will get you a couple of goals, while working his socks off and I’ve never seen anybody catch Mokes when he runs with the ball.

“He also keeps it so well, so it’s a bit surprising to see them at this level, but the fact they are is maybe to do with the surroundings and the club, because people want to come here. I’ve come from a higher division, but there’s no difference in terms of what happens from day to day.

“The club is a big deal for the people of York and nowhere at this level will have better training facilities.”

Former Northern Ireland under-21 international Gray also worked under City’s previous management team of Gary Mills and Darren Caskey in North Wales, so has been following the club’s recent travails closely and is well aware of the pressure on the eighth-placed team to bounce straight back up this term.

“I’ve taken an interest in York because of everybody I knew there and I was devastated for them all, watching the club go down on BT Sports against Forest Green last season,” he explained.

“There were almost as many York fans as there were Salford supporters last weekend and, when I signed for the club, everybody was saying you’ll be expected to win 3-0 or 4-0 every week. Football doesn’t work out like that but, from what I’ve seen and know about the squad, our quality will shine through and we should be up there and, if we can start winning every week, that’s what you’re looking for.”

While pleased to team up with some familiar faces, Gray is also looking forward to forging a strong understanding with Jon Parkin, having made his City debut last weekend alongside the veteran former Championship striker in the 3-2 loss at Salford.

“He’s a dream to play with and I didn’t realise how clever he was until I trained with him,” Gray enthused. “He’ll make a movement and, nine times out of ten, he’ll find you with the right pass.

“He’s already helped me with a couple of things we’ve talked about and I’m normally better playing alongside a big target man so, hopefully, I can get a few goals and he can too. I’m also happy to do the nasty work by running the channels and winning throw-ins and free kicks.

“At every level, set-pieces are vital and I’m not just a poacher although, if I get two tap-ins every match, I’ll be happy with that.”

Dead-ball deliveries proved City’s undoing for a second successive game against Salford, but Gray was not too disheartened by the general performance, arguing: “It was a disappointing day but, on reflection, you’re scratching your head as to how we were 3-0 down, because I thought we were on top, until they scored at a key time.”

Despite featuring in 13 of struggling Torquay’s first 15 National League fixtures following his summer switch from Glenavon, Gray confessed that the interest from Bootham Crescent came just at the right time and allowed him to return to his north-east roots.

“I was playing regularly at Torquay, but then a couple of results didn’t go for us and I have ended up moving on, which happens in football,” he pointed out. “When I first heard there was a chance to come here, I was desperate for the move to go through.

“I was brought up in Stockton and lived in Yarm for most of my life, so it’s nice to come back home. I’ve been playing all around the country, so it’s good to get a local club and I’m enjoying living with my mum again.

“You’re always a bit happier being nearer family and that can be taken on to the pitch.”

Whilst also demonstrating a willingness to be versatile, Gray added that he is happiest in the role he has started his Minstermen career in.

“My favourite position is centre forward,” he insisted. “I like running in behind defences and getting shots away, but I was playing in the centre of midfield and out wide at Torquay.

“I’ll do that if asked – no problem – but I prefer it up top.”

Gray will be steering clear of spiders in North Yorkshire, meanwhile, having been sidelined for three months at Wrexham after being bitten by an eight-legged arachnid.

“I’ve still got the scar and I was on a drip for five days,” he revealed of the freak incident. “The night it happened I had gone out for a meal with Sean Newton and his girlfriend, then my arm was infected and the affected area had to be cut out.”