David Gray believes Hibs are in a good place ahead of Sunday’s match with Blackburn Rovers and next week’s Europa League first round qualifier against NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands.
The Easter Road captain, who scored a goal and played 45 minutes in last night’s 6-0 win over Berwick Rangers at Shielfield, is enjoying his return to first team action after recovering from a season-ending Achilles injury sustained during the club’s winter training camp in Portugal.
Gray also played a half against Linlithgow Rose at the weekend, and was pleased that had stepped up their performance from the 2-0 win in West Lothian.
“The [Berwick] result is fantastic, it’s nice to score some goals but the most important thing is the improvement from Saturday, which shows the work we’ve been doing in pre-season,” the right back told Hibs TV.
“We’re in a good place at the moment. The fitness levels are good but the most pleasing thing is the performance tonight.
“It’s great to be back, it’s been a long wait and a frustrating time for myself in the gym, working as hard as I can to get back.
“I’m just delighted I’m fit and available for the start of the season.”
Gray was limited to just 12 appearances last season, a niggling knee injury causing him issues prior to the January trip to the Algarve.
Manager Neil Lennon described Gray’s second setback as “heartbreaking,” with the defender lasting just seven minutes of a bounce game against Willem II.
The former Manchester United youngster revealed he had been putting in the hours in the gym during his recovery in order to prepare himself physically and mentally for a comeback.
“The most important thing for me was to get fit before the end of [last] season. I had to know, mentally, that I was ready so I could go away on holiday, have a couple of weeks off and come back and have a right good pre-season, rather than not being fit and playing catch-up, and thankfully I came back feeling good,” Gray said.
The 30-year-old, who scored his third goal in as many matches against the Wee Gers at Shielfield, is hoping to feature at the weekend, when Hibs take on Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers at Easter Road for Paul Hanlon’s testimonial.
Admitting that it was Lennon’s decision how much or how little of the match he would play a part in, Gray added: “The more minutes I can get in, the better.
“It should be a good occasion for Paul at the weekend. He fully deserves it and we’re all looking forward to it.”
The clash with the Ewood Park side will be Hibs’ third game in a week, and represents an obvious step up in standard from the matches against Linlithgow and Berwick.
This, Gray believes, will help the Easter Road side continue their preparations for taking on Runavik next Thursday.
“It’s important to keep testing us; the emphasis in the first couple of games has been on fitness, and a level of performance, but the Blackburn game will test us in a different way,” said Gray.
“It’s a good test for us ahead of the Europa League game with NSI Runavik but it’s one we’re all looking forward to.”