David GRAY has admitted he’s been suffering twice over as he has battled to overcome an ankle injury while powerless to help his Hibs team-mates end the slump which has seen them spiral down the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The skipper, speaking before last night’s shock news that boss Neil Lennon had been suspended, hasn’t started a match since the beginning of October and has had to look on helplessly as Neil Lennon’s players have managed just two wins in their past 14 league games.
But now Gray is hoping he can now play his part in pushing the club in an upwards direction, insisting the primary target has to be getting back into the top six.
Ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Paisley and a clash with St Mirren, Gray said: “Personally, I am very frustrated at the way the season has panned out. It started off really well and I was enjoying it, playing in games all the time and feeling good.
“And then obviously being injured, it’s the worst thing for a professional footballer. I have had enough of them down the years to know how to deal with it. But it doesn’t make it any easier. And when results aren’t going well on the pitch as well it adds to the frustration.”
Having sustained the ankle injury in the 6-0 hammering of Hamilton, Gray has made only two substitute appearances since – both before the winter break – and, he revealed, he was guilty of trying to come back too quickly.
The 30-year-old said: “The damage I did to my ankle is taking longer than expected to heal. It has been a slow, niggly one. The change from soft to hard surfaces hasn’t helped – it’s just something I need to persevere with. I was guilty of really pushing it to try to get back before the break and, to be honest, I was feeling good. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. If I could turn back time and leave it another week I would and I would be fine now.
“Unfortunately, I broke down. I have done everything this time and I am lucky I have great facilities and great staff to make sure I am right.”
Being club captain has only served to accentuate Gray’s frustration. He said: “It’s Catch-22. You want to be back helping out as soon as you can.
“But, at the same time, you need to contribute. There’s no point coming back if you’re not right. You need to be at a level where you can help the team.
“I was sitting watching the results and I felt powerless. All I could do was to be there and try and support the lads all the time. But it’s easy to say things to them when you’re not playing.
“With hindsight, if I didn’t go into the tackle I don’t get hurt. But that’s the way I have played my whole career. I have always gone into things I probably shouldn’t have. You think you learn as you get older but I’ll never take that out of my game, to be honest.”
Eighth place is far from where anyone envisaged Hibs being three months ago but, insisted Gray, they are not in a false position. He said: “I don’t think the league lies.
“That’s just the way it is at the minute. We are not playing as well as we can, whatever the reason is for that. We are not playing to the level we can and I think everyone will accept that. We have to accept it and make sure we put it right.
“The manager has talked of bringing in a few additions and that can only help us, but, at the same time, this squad, even if there are no additions, should, I believe, be up the other end of the league.”
Gray agreed top six was the minimum ambition but insisted: “You have no right to that just because you are expected to do it. You have to go and do it. There are no easy games. You can see how competitive it is this season. But, if you look at where we finished last season and where we are now, we are under-achieving.
“It’s easy to say we have to go on a run and win five or six games, but it’s more important to win tomorrow.”