Johnson seeks Gros profit

Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 17 July 2014

MATCH winner William Gros has been challenged to work on his fitness in order to claim a long-term contract with Athletic.

The muscular forward netted the goal which earned Lee Johnson’s side the spoils in the run-out against Newcastle, but his current manager didn’t go overboard in his post-match praise for the former Kilmarnock player.

The suggestion from Johnson was that his ex-team-mate is only ever going to be an effective weapon in Sky Bet League One if he improves his fitness levels — which went to rack and ruin through sustained inactivity north of the border.

At previous club Kilmarnock he played understudy to star striker Kris Boyd, before securing a release from a three-year contract after only 12 months.

Last term, Gros made 16 appearances without scoring for the Scottish Premiership side.

As the latest in a band of men who have known Johnson as a player as well as a manager, former Le Havre teenager Gros (22) is determined to graft behind the scenes in order to pay back the faith already shown.

“We have been working hard over the past three weeks,” said Gros, who linked up with Kilmarnock three years ago when leaving Saintpierre in his homeland of Reunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean.

“I’m very, very pleased with my goal against Newcastle, but also the win for the team. We performed well and looked sharp and bright. Hopefully, we can keep that going in the games coming up.

“Personally, I am just keeping my head down and working hard.

“I am very pleased that I am here and I am trying to prove that he is right to bring me here.”

Gros — who scored on his full Killie debut, but failed to make much of an impression thereafter — is a player Johnson believes in, provided he looks after himself.

The manager said he may end up offering the forward a month-to-month deal initially, with the promise of more down the line.

“The thing with Willy Gros is his fitness,” said Johnson. “He has spent a year pretty much rotting, but I know what he can do.

“I have been there and seen him every day. I know he can finish with both feet and connects very well.

“He is a problem for people, whether that be on the right, or as a centre-forward.

“But he has to get to that point where he is as fit as he can possibly be.

“If you get the best of Willy Gros, you have a good player. Willy Gros with half a stone too much on can’t get about the pitch.”