Hibs’ latest signing Vykintas Slivka did not a ball in anger for Juventus, but David Gray believes the four years the Lithuanian midfielder spent with La Vecchia Signora will have taught him how to become a star at Easter Road.
Neil Lennon surprised everyone by snapping up Slivka on a three-year deal only days after signing his countryman Deivydas Matulevicius, bringing the number of new arrivals over the summer to seven.
And while the 22-year-old has already been capped 19 times by his country, playing against Scotland in last October’s World Cup qualifying match, he’s pitched up in Edinburgh, with Matulevicius, as something of an unknown.
Hibs skipper Gray, though, believes the grounding Slivka enjoyed while with Juventus, Italian champions for the past six seasons, will soon become clear for all to see.
As a teenage hopeful like Slivka, Gray signed for Manchester United, coming into daily contact with players such as Gary and Philip Neville, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney – to name but a few.
And he knows from that experience just how much his new team-mate will have learned from rubbing shoulders with stars such as Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chielini, Sami Khedira, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic.
He said: “You learn from the best, you see them all the time. But more importantly, you learn how to conduct yourself as a person, not just as a player. How to handle yourself, how to approach games, you are spoiled with the facilities available although it is up to you to make the best of it all.
“You realise how lucky you are – I certainly did – and as a young lad I trained as hard as I could every day to make myself the very best player I could be.”
Sadly, though, it is a harsh fact of life that the vast majority of youngsters who step through the front door at clubs such as Manchester United and Juventus never enjoy the thrill of pulling on a first-team shirt.
Gray went through that disappointment just as Slivka has, the Lithuanian spending spells on loan with Modena and Ascoli in Italy, Slovenian outfit Forica and FC Den Bosch in Holland in search of first-team football just as Gray once did in playing for Crewe and Plymouth, leaving Man Utd to join Preston, Stevenage and Burton Albion before returning to Scotland and Hibs.
He said: “Obviously I was not good enough to make it or sustain a first-team place at Old Trafford but it was definitely beneficial, it made me hungry to go and achieve as high as I could.
“There comes the point when you can play as many reserve games and the like as you want but playing ‘proper football’ is the best way to learn. It was certainly the best thing I did.
“Possibly Vykintas feels the same way. He looks a good technical player, you need to be good to survive as long as he did at a club like Juventus. I am sure he will be a great addition for us and hopefully he will adapt to the Scottish game very quickly.”
Gray believes having Matulevicius alongside him in Edinburgh can only help Slivka adjust to life in Scotland and with Hibs but, he insisted, the duo will get plenty of support from their new team-mates.
He said: “It will help they have someone who speaks the same language but their English is very good so from that point of view they have settled in very well.
“They’ve got involved with the boys very quickly but I think anyone coming into our dressing-room has found it easy. We have a good bunch of boys who make everyone welcome.
“It doesn’t matter where players are from as long as they are good players, competition for places is good for everyone.”