David Gray insists he will not have to adapt his approach in order to perform the vice-captain role at Hibs because he always tries to play like a leader anyway.
The former Manchester United right-back skippered the team for the first time in Tuesday’s 3-2 League Cup win over Dumbarton in the absence of suspended captain Liam Craig, and manager Alan Stubbs has since confirmed that he will continue as deputy.
The 26-year-old has not been a captain since his time in the Old Trafford club’s reserves, but he is confident he will take his new role in his stride.
“It’s obviously a privilege to have it but I won’t change the way I go about things,” said Gray, who is expected to wear the armband away to Alloa today as Craig struggles with a back strain. “I always put pressure on myself, to be honest. First and foremost you have to make sure your own house is in order when you’re playing and then once you get into the game you can hopefully start affecting others. I try and do that regardless of whether I’ve got the armband or not.
“It was a surprise to get the armband on Tuesday. I didn’t have a clue myself. I was as surprised as anybody else but delighted to get the armband and proud to have it. That was the first time I had been captain in a professional competitive game. I was fortunate to captain the reserves at Man United for a couple of seasons, which was good.
“I’ve had a couple of times when someone has come off and I’ve been handed the armband, but I’ve not had anyone coming in and saying ‘you’re captain tonight’. It was really good, a proud moment for me. Hopefully I just knuckled down, worked hard and worked on my game and then as I got into the game hopefully the lads took example from that and pushed on. I really enjoyed it.”
Roslin boy Gray has been a standout for Hibs this season and feels he has benefited from regular action after a stop-start period in his career, as well as being back in Edinburgh following the best part of a decade down south with United, Preston, Stevenage and Burton.
“It’s definitely been good to get a good run again,” he continued. “I was in and out last season at Stevenage and Burton. I went to Stevenage and I made that move to try and get games. I did get games in the first season and, for whatever reason – different managers, different opinions, I found myself stop-start, for the last year, especially. So, to come up here and to be playing every week is exactly what every footballer wants to do, they want to be playing games and I’m enjoying that atmosphere.
“I’m really enjoying being back home as well. I think that’s a big boost for me, personally. Off the pitch as well as on the pitch I’m really happy, my family’s really happy. I get to see my mum and dad, and cooked meals every now and then makes a big difference! I’ve missed Sunday dinner, I’ve not had that for a long time. It’s been good. We’ve got a little one and my missus is from up here, and her family is around us. It’s just a lot less pressure, so it’s been really good.”
The only thing that remains to fall into place for Gray is for Hibs to start getting results they feel their play merits. On Tuesday, they required a desperate late fightback to overcome a 2-0 deficit against Dumbarton despite being comfortable for most of the match. In their last league game, they lost 1-0 to Falkirk despite bombarding Jamie MacDonald’s goal, while they also felt they did not deserve to lose away to Rangers, in the Petrofac Training Cup, and Hearts, in the league.
“I think it’s coming,” he said. “We’ve had 40 shots or something in the last two games. If we keep going the way we’re going then hopefully we can give somebody a bit of a doing. The first goal in the game is very important and hopefully that can settle us down a little bit and give us more confidence to go on and score. We showed that on Tuesday, we scored one and the fans got lifted, and all of a sudden we had more confidence, more crosses going into the box and Farid [El Alagui] got on the end of things. We were just creating chances then, and that’s what you want.”
In addition to more ruthless finishing, Gray feels Hibs need to address their defending at set-pieces. “Two set-pieces have undone us on Tuesday, which is something we need work on because we lost from a set-piece on Saturday as well,” he said. “That’s something we need to address. Because we’re controlling the game, a lot of teams are going to see set-pieces as a great opportunity for them. We need to see it as a red alert, teams’ main threat is going to come from these situations and we need to be on the front foot and make sure we defend them properly.”