Practically, of course, it would be an impossible ask, but the way in which Hibs’ season drew to a close has left David Gray itching to get back into action, the defender claiming he’s so desperate to see the Easter Road side back in the Premiership he’d be ready to go again this Saturday.
Instead, Gray and his team-mates will enjoy barely a month off, time not only to rest and recuperate but reflect on what might have been, Alan Stubbs’ players throwing everything at Rangers in a bid to keep their promotion hopes alive only to come up agonisingly short.
But while they lick their wounds as they lie on the beach, Gray believes they’ll also recall the standing ovation accorded them in defeat by their own fans, recognition that under Stubbs and his management team Hibs are, despite the bitter disappointment of recent days, heading in the right direction.
The right-back said: “We’ve got a bit of time off now, we’re due back towards the end of June, and it’s a case of getting away, switching off, refreshing and recharging the batteries and try to come back and hit the ground running, that has to be the aim.
“The disappointment obviously sticks with you for a few days, it’s difficult to get it out of your head. But at the same time it’s important that you try to switch off from it.
“It’s easier said than done, but having a family, getting away on holiday, seeing friends and doing things you have not had the chance to do during the season all helps.
“Rest is important but a lot of the lads will be thinking the same way, that we just want to get the season started again, to kick on and try to get promoted as soon as possible.”
By the time Gray is reunited with his team-mates at East Mains there could, of course, be a few familiar faces missing with the likes of Liam Craig, Scott Robertson, Lewis Stevenson and Liam Fontaine out of contract while the short-term deals agreed by Fraser Fyvie and Tomas Cerny will have come to an end as will the loan spells of Mark Oxley, Dylan McGeouch, Keith Watson and Martin Boyle.
Gray, however, is hopeful the happy environment Stubbs and his backroom staff generatedwill persuade a number of them to prolong their Hibs careers.
There is also the memory of that rousing reception the team received as their extended season came to a premature close as it became evident they weren’t going to overturn the two-goal advantage Rangers had earned in the first leg of their play-off semi-final, Jason Cummings’ 94th minute strike, his 21st of the season, coming just too late to salvage the situation,
The 27-year-old said: “The general feeling is it’s a really happy dressing-room, everyone at the club has really enjoyed it. That’s credit to the staff and management, what they have done on a day-to-day basis has made it a really enjoyable place to come and work.
“But everyone is different, everyone has their own agenda and contractual situations. Everyone has their own thing and it is up to them what they want to do. As far as I am concerned the general feeling is we have a really good squad and the more players we have from the season just finished the better we will be next season, and if the manager wants to add a few then it should be a good thing.
“What I have found in football is that if you are happy you play better.
“If you are in a happy environment every single day the more successful you can become. Hopefully the boys who are out of contract that the manager wants to keep will still be here next season.”
While he and his team-mates may have failed in the primary objective of gaining promotion at the first time of asking, Gray fully believes the Hibs support, while still hurting at being so close but yet so far, showed their recognition of the fact the club has been turned around with the reception they gave Stubbs’ players.
Relegation a year ago was greeted by an outpouring of anger, fans venting their spleen as the club threatened to tear itself apart, the drop followed by a mass exodus of players, the removal of boss Terry Butcher and the naming of Stubbs, with no frontline managerial experience, as his replacement.
On Saturday, however, there was nothing but an appreciation of the effort on display.
Gray said: “We know the objective was to get promoted and we failed to do that which was disappointing. But to have come from where we were with so many new bodies coming in, a new management team coming in, players going out, dealing with the massive disappointment of what had happened and the fact we didn’t start the season great shows the progress made.
“The fans, to be fair, have been great.
“There was a sort of edginess at the very start, the feeling nothing had changed because we didn’t start well added to that. But even before we got the goal on Saturday there was a burst from them. They’d been behind us the whole game, really driving us on and that’s a massive compliment to them for being there.
“It looked as if we’d left it too late but they showed their appreciation and that’s really good from the players’ point of view.
“I think the way we went about both legs against Rangers, the way we’ve gone about the whole season and the work ethic has been great. On Saturday we went at them right from the first whistle, bombarding them and trying to get that first goal.
“The fans could see that and rallied to it, they could see the effort we were putting in. We had a few chances, especially in the first 20 minutes and had we managed to get that goal I’m pretty confident we could have turned the tie round, but unfortunately it came just too late.
“At the end you have the disappointment of not being promoted, but the reception we got from the fans makes you want to kick on again. We know we should not be at this level, we know we are better than this but that gives you the hunger, the desire to do our very best again to make sure it happens next season.”