The attacking midfielder, in his 11th year at the club he joined as a 20-year-old, had become frustrated at a lack of game time having found himself out of the starting XI after picking up an injury.
Assistant to manager Johnny Harvey, Gay voiced his concerns and asked to be made available for transfer at the beginning of February. Since then he’s been given a chance to prove himself and he’s done just that, with Saturday’s opener against local rivals Newtongrange Star his third goal in four games. Penicuik won 3-0.
“It’s been a frustrating season for me,” said Gay. “I picked up an injury earlier in the season then tried to work my way back into the team, but the guys were doing great so I felt my chances were limited. Now I’m back in, I’m scoring goals and we’re winning games, which is good.
“I’m 30 now so I need to be playing week in, week out and that wasn’t happening so I was looking to maybe take a step to the side to get some more game time – it’s critical that I play. With the work that I do and the job that I’ve got, it’s quite stressful and I’ve got lot of sacrifices to make to get away from it. I’ve got three kids at home as well, so I need to be playing really. It wasn’t anything to do with being unhappy at Penicuik, I love it here, it was just simply about playing football.
“I think we’ll just ride it out until the end of the season now and then come the summer I’ll look at what offers I’ve got and take it from there.”
Gay marked his tenth anniversary at the club with a testimonial last May, but his refusal to commit to a new contract before their Fife and Lothians Cup final with Bonnyrigg in June saw him left him out of the squad.
He’s desperate to make up for missing out on that cup triumph by helping Penicuik secure more silverware this season. He added: “Our target now is to finish as high up as we possibly can and win a cup or two, if we can, there’s no reason why not. We’ve more than matched everyone we’ve played this season so there’s no reason why we can’t go and win something. I’ve got the bit between my teeth and it would be great to play a part in a cup win.”
While Penicuik have their eyes on lifting at least one trophy come June, their Midlothian rivals Newtongrange are slowly edging towards the trap door and exiting the Super League.
Lady luck hasn’t shone on Stevie McLeish’s side at all this season and Penicuik’s opener on seven minutes summed up their lacklustre campaign.
Star goalkeeper Liam Amos attempted to punch clear Aaron Somerville’s cross but he got nowhere near it as he crashed into one of his own defenders in Dale Richardson and Gay fired into the unguarded net.
Nitten rallied but they went further behind before the break when Gay’s corner was rifled high into the net by Andy Forbes.
The visitors piled on the pressure after the interval and were unlucky not to pull a goal back with lone striker Kyle Lander displaying what he’s capable of when provided with good service, but unfortunately for the young forward he wasn’t able to take any of his three chances with home keeper Connor Easton in form.
Ryan McCallum sealed Star’s fate with 15 minutes remaining when he silkily backheeled John MacDonald’s cross.
Star boss McLeish feels his players need to show a better mindset if they are to avoid relegation to the Premier League. “If you can’t defend you don’t deserve to win games and that’s just been our season. There is belief [that we can stay up] in myself and Murray [Hunter, assistant manager] but the squad, we’ll see about that, I don’t know, it’s getting harder every day. There’s guys in there that need to give us a bit more, the quality isn’t an issue it’s mindset.”
Penicuik Athletic: Easton, Forbes, Noble, Hume (K Scott), Young, Janczyk (Jones), Gay, MacDonald, Somerville, McCallum (S Scott), Montgomery
Newtongrange Star: Amos, Swaney, Martyniuk, Currie, Morris (Douglas), Cropley (Flynn), Wilson, Lander, Richardson, Bracks, Cook