Exclusive: Hibs candidate wins dressing room backing as gaffer hunt intensifies

Jordan Obita (centre) has spoken about the search for a new boss. Jordan Obita (centre) has spoken about the search for a new boss.
Jordan Obita (centre) has spoken about the search for a new boss. | SNS Group
Award winner points to crucial quality possessed by leading contender

Interim Hibs boss David Gray has received fresh dressing room backing in his bid to succeed Nick Montgomery on a permanent basis, with double Player of the Year winner Jordan Obita citing the “respect” commanded by the club legend as a potentially decisive factor. And Obita is sure that the Scottish Cup-winning skipper will make a success of the gig, should he get the nod.

Gray is considered a leading contender as Hibs get closer to a final short list of candidates, with new sporting director Malky Mackay apparently keen to bring in a younger coach with fresh ideas. The former captain’s in-depth knowledge of the club and squad also counts in his favour.

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And Obita, named POTY and Players’ POTY at Sunday night’s end-of-season awards ceremony, said players would welcome a battlefield promotion for Gray, who took on his fourth stint as stand-in following Montgomery’s departure with less than a week of the campaign remaining, revealing: “David has his own ways of playing, although he didn’t want to try too much because there were only two games left. But he’s a really good guy, first and foremost.

“Everyone in and around that training ground respects him completely. So whether he gets the job or not, that’s not our decision, but everyone likes him. He’s had the job before, everyone respects, the fans love him.

“The only thing he doesn’t have on his side is a lot of experience. But he’s had a taste of it – and I’m sure he’d do well, given the chance.”

Over the course of his first season at Hibs, experienced left back Obita was signed by Lee Johnson, played most of his games under Montgomery, and then finished the year with Gray at the helm. Admitting that the constant changing had been tough for players, the Englishman revealed: “I didn’t actually have long enough with Lee to really understand the positives and negatives to his management. But he was definitely on your case all the time, a good thing, because he was a manager who expected and demanded a lot. He liked to put that pressure on, and it was up to us to respond.

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“With Nick Montgomery, he played a style of football that we all enjoyed. And he had us working hard on it. We barely had any days off, to be honest, because he wanted to get the best out of us.

“Players always feel it when a manager goes, because it’s not nice to see anyone lose their job. Even though we know it’s part of football, it doesn’t get any easier. A manager can be in a job for six months or six years – it’s still not very nice when they go.

“In our case, we lost three of the team, with the manager, assistant and the goalkeeper coach all going. Everything changed very quickly. We had to move on as quickly as possible.”

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Hibs have narrowed their search for a new boss to exclude anyone currently under contract at another club, with a reluctance to get involved in compensation negotiations driving them towards younger coaches looking for their next big opportunity. This has seen Gray move ahead of more experienced early favourites like Derek McInnes - who has since signed a new contract extension at Kilmarnock - and St Mirren’s Stephen Robinson.