Hibs skipper David Gray says he and his team-mates will return from their Europa League trip to Greece ready to face Motherwell in their opening game of the new Premiership season and determined to do better than last time round.
The Easter Road side confounded everyone on their return to the top flight after a three-year absence by taking the fight for second place in the table to the penultimate day of the season, finishing in fourth spot carrying the consolation of Europa League football.
Neil Lennon’s squad travelled to Greece today hoping to progress to the third qualifying round of the competition after beating Asteras Tripolis 3-2 in Edinburgh last week, their entire focus on the challenge of Thursday night’s return leg before turning their sights on domestic affairs.
Gray accepted all eyes will be on Hibs to see if they can repeat the heroics of last season, but said: “Can we top it? I don’t see why not. People laughed at us when we said we would compete at the top end of the table.
“We even said it when we were still in the Championship. We felt we had a squad good enough and we went and took the race for second place down to the second last game of the season.
“Hibs fans would have taken it if offered at the start of the season. No disrespect to anyone, but we knew Celtic would be winning the league, but we saw everyone else as fair game.
“We were disappointed eventually to finish fourth but hopefully we can progress and go further this season.”
Hibs will do so without Scotland midfielder Dylan McGeouch, who has joined Sunderland, while question marks remain over the future of John McGinn, the subject of three failed bids from Celtic, but Gray was adamant that with new arrivals Stevie Mallan and Adam Bogdan and the returning Flo Kamberi, they’ll again be operating at the top end of the table.
He said: “Good teams keep it going and we want to kick on again this season. Obviously guys like Dylan will be hard to replace, but the manger has managed to keep the core of the squad together for the past few years. The dressing-room is the best I’ve ever been involved in and that means the new boys settle very quickly because it is a good environment.”