Hibs skipper David Gray admitted he’s had fleeting visions of leading his victorious team-mates up the steps at Hampden to lift the Scottish Cup.
But, as quickly as such thoughts have drifted into his mind, they’ve been vanquished, Gray reminding himself there’s no point in dreaming, he needs to wait until it becomes a reality.
Nevertheless, the defender conceded he and his team-mates are aware of the weight of history on their shoulders and the fact they’d be regarded as legends for evermore among the Hibs support if they can end the club’s 114-year wait without the trophy.
However, Gray again insists that until it is done there’s little use in thinking about what-ifs. Agreeing that rarely are players offered the opportunity to be regarded in such a manner, the 28-year-old countered: “It’s another game of football – but at the same time it’s a chance to win the cup.
“It’s the sort of occasion you might never get again, and then there’s the history of the club and all that goes along with that. But at the same time, we can’t look too far ahead and think of becoming legends, it’s more a case of the chance to win the Scottish Cup.
“There have been moments when I’ve thought ‘how good would that be’, but I have to get that out of my vision because until you have done it, there’s no point in dreaming. You have to do it, so I am fully focused on starting the game well and having a real go at it. We know in the dressing-room, individually and collectively, we have a chance.”
Hibs have, of course, had to contend with dealing with the bitter disappointment of seeing their promotion hopes ended little more than a week ago, but Gray insists spirits are high within the camp.
He said: “Straight after the game it was obviously very disappointing, but we were reminded we’ve still one of the highlights of the season to come, a big opportunity and we had to prepare for it.
“After the game I went home, stared into space for a while but you go to sleep, wake up the next day still disappointed but you have to quickly get it our of your mind. If you sit about and feel sorry for yourself, you win nothing.
“We’ve had a busy schedule, we’ve been playing that many games, two and three a week at some stages so it was important to rest and recuperate. I had a bit of family time with my daughter and tried to switch off as much as I could although it was always sitting at the back of my mind.
“But we came in Monday and trained very well, as we have done all week, and we are all raring to go. Everyone has been on the training pitch battling for a place, everyone wants to play, there’s competition for places all over.
“Winning the cup would be a great achievement, it would be great after the disappointment of last week to repay the fans a bit because they have been great all season and they’ll have been as disappointed and hurting as much as we are.
“We know we’ve got the chance to end the season on a high and it’s important that we try to do that so that’s the main motivation for us as players. We’ve had a real good season but we need to make sure we end it on a high, go away for the summer and come back having had a successful season.” Like boss Alan Stubbs, Gray believes today’s final, the first between two sides outwith the top flight of Scottish football, has the makings of a classic and, he insisted, it could be a great advert for the game in this country, the two clubs having claimed the scalps of a good number of Premiership teams during the season.
He said: “The Championship has had a lot of coverage on television from ourselves, Rangers, Falkirk and Raith all doing so well. I believe all of those teams could hold their own in the Premiership. I don’t think the gulf is that big.
“It’s shown that because we’ve managed to get to two cup finals, but at the same time it can only be a good thing for Scottish football because there are players in this division who are capable of playing in the Premiership.”
While the likes of Jason Cummings and John McGinn have grabbed many of the headlines this season, Gray insisted it has been a real team effort, saying: “You see strikers and people who score goals getting credit and obviously for someone like John to go and get a full Scotland cap from playing in the Championship is a fantastic achievement and he’s been outstanding since he joined.
“But he will tell you he’s only done that because of the players he’s involved with and the players he plays with. There’s players who come in every single day and their professional attitude is outstanding. People like Lewie [Stevenson] and Paul Hanlon who have been there for years and the manager has changed quite a few times.
“It’s no surprise they’re always there, they’ve always played under all the managers because they’re such good pros and have such a high level of consistency.”
Gray accepted that Hibs’ failure to win promotion will prompt speculation as to the futures of certain individuals, but was delighted to hear Stubbs insist he intends to be around next season as have a number of his team-mates.
As Stubbs’ first signing he said: “It’s great. He signed me, took a chance on me and obviously I’ve really enjoyed coming back up the road and I’ve enjoyed my football under him.
“I think all the players he’s brought in, and I speak on behalf of all the boys as a collective, we’re really enjoying playing under him. He is a fantastic coach as are all his staff. It’s just his all round manner, the way he is with the players every single day. He’s firm when he has to be, he’s laid-back at other times, he’s very approachable and he and his staff get their point across. It’s a real joint effort.”
As for his team-mates, Gray went on: “You never know what’s going to happen. Some of the players have had great seasons and there’s always going to be interest in young players that are doing well.
“That can only be good for the club if they’re getting interest from other players because it shows we’ve got good players. But on the whole the players we’ve got at the minute, the squad, the manager and the staff all put together we’ve got a really good squad and if we can keep as much of that together as possible we’ll have a real good go again next year.”