Having 'Sir David' on board keeps Monty aware of Hibs Cup legacy
The honorary knighthood bestowed up on the Scottish Cup-winning captain remains a source of both pride and playful teasing in the coaches’ areas at East Mains, where David Gray humbly accepts the ribbing as a small price to pay for his place in the hearts of supporters. As Nick Montgomery’s men head north for Saturday’s fifth round clash with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, harking back to one magical May afternoon in 2016 seems almost obligatory.
“I don’t need reminding of the success because David Gray is my assistant,” said Monty, who understands the importance of this competition to Hibs fans, the Yorkshireman adding: “Everyone calls him Sir David Gray, but he’s a really humble guy and probably doesn’t like that tag of everyone calling him that.
“But you see photos around the training ground and in the gym with that moment when he scored the winning goal. You see the stories and the You Tube videos, and it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
“So it’s great history and every cup competition is a great opportunity. I got to the semi-final in the last one (the Viaplay Cup) and I thought we were unlucky not to make the final. Probably best not to talk about VAR again! But major semi-finals and finals are something you really want to experience.”
Asked if the idea of being called Sir Nick appealed, Monty grinned and said: “Well, it would be nice! Nah, it’s something that David is really humble about, but we do have a laugh about it. I don’t think anyone can take that tag off him.”
With Wednesday night’s loss to Celtic producing another VAR controversy, leaving Montgomery as frustrated as ever with a system increasingly operating without the trust and consent of those it is supposed to police, the absence of the video review system from this weekend’s game in the Highlands probably feels like a bonus. Even if it means tweaking tactics just a little.
“Sometimes you are glad when you have it and sometimes when you don’t,” he said, explaining: “It’ll be different - and what you can’t do is play for offsides that are tight and you maybe not get.
“The mentality has to be a little bit different because you are relying on sometimes a blatant decision. You have to finish the action off. When you know there is VAR, you have to finish the action off. But you know what you can’t do is anticipate anything and expect decisions to be overturned.
“Chopping and changing from VAR to not is definitely something you have to be cautious of. You do have to be aware. The ones where you know it’s maybe blatantly offside, you still have to finish the action. But it’s going to be a little bit different and it’s something to make the players aware of. I think everyone agrees that sometimes the stoppages do stop the flow of the game, so there won't be stoppages and you have to be switched on and ready at all times.”
Taking on opponents closer to the bottom than the top of the Championship represents a different sort of challenge for Hibs, who are travelling north tomorrow in order to be rested and ready for whatever Duncan Ferguson’s boys throw at them. Monty knows, from experience, how dangerous these ties can be.
“The moment you don’t prepare properly you open yourself up to getting a result you don’t want or expect,” he said, pointing out: “I had a lot of success in cup competitions and getting to semi-finals and play-off finals and stuff.
“There were one or two when we got knocked out. And I think if you look at a lot of the clubs in England with massive squads there’s also a lot of rotation that goes on in those games.
“We don’t have the luxury of being able to rotate a lot of players. You have to take the game seriously, it’s a cup competition with a lot of history for the club.”
Nathan Moriah-Welsh made an impact from the start on Wednesday night, adding oomph to the midfield, while Myziane Maolida was a revelation as a substitute, tilting the game in favour of a home side who were unlucky not to win. The fact that they still lost 2-1 hasn’t masked the promise shown by a couple of the SEVEN new signings acquired during the January window. But Montgomery knows it will take time for all of them to influence the team.
“It’ll take a few weeks to get used to training, and to get match-fit,” he said. “You can’t accelerate that overnight. I keep saying the same thing – change is good but it’s not easy at the start, it’s hard. I think, though, even in a week you’ve seen a big improvement.
“Myziane had an impact against Kilmarnock (where he scored), and he had chances to win the game on Wednesday. He’s a special talent. Sometimes it takes a little bit to adapt to a new league and environment. He’s adapted really well, and quickly.
“Young Nathan, to play like he did as a 21-year-old kid against Celtic, that was the reason I identified him and brought him. He was outstanding.”
Emiliano Marcondes returned to light training today after missing Wednesday night’s game with a foot injury.