David Gray has challenged Hibs to step up and prove beyond doubt that they are one of Scotland’s strongest teams.
The Easter Road outfit roared into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup for the third year running on Wednesday after producing a rousing 3-1 victory over a Hearts side, who sit fourth in the Premiership.
Despite spending the last three seasons in the Championship, Hibs are unbeaten in their last seven Edinburgh derbies and have beaten all of the top teams in the country bar Celtic over the last two campaigns, while also winning the Scottish Cup last term.
Gray is adamant that his team are equipped to compete with the likes of Aberdeen, Rangers, Hearts and St Johnstone in a league campaign, but acknowledges that, in order to give this belief some genuine credence, they must first win promotion and ensure they are in the top flight next season. They are seven points clear at the top of the Championship ahead of tomorrow evening’s home match with Dunfermline Athletic and are red-hot favourites to seal the title.
“I’ve been saying from the word go that we feel we’re good enough to beat anybody on our day, especially when we perform the way we did against Hearts,” Gray told the Evening News. “We’re hard to beat and once again we’ve turned up against a side who are doing pretty well in the Premiership. They’re up there challenging at the top end of the league, and that’s where we want to be. We believe we are good enough to be up there as well, and we keep saying we’re good enough but now it’s up to us to actually win this league and get up and compete next season.” Gray believes Hibs boast one of the strongest squads in Scotland on paper.
“I look around the dressing-room and I know I’ve got guys I’m happy to be in the trenches with,” said the captain. “We’ve got really good character and we’ve shown that many times as a team. We’ve gone a goal down many times and managed to come back. We’ve got loads of good characters and we’ve got real strength in depth. Up against any opposition, when I look around the dressing-room before a game, I’m always confident.”
Although Hibs haven’t lost an Edinburgh derby since August 2014, Gray won’t entertain talk of a power shift in the Capital until his team are operating in the top division alongside Hearts.
“At the end of the day, they won the Championship and got up there to the Premiership,” he said. “If some people want to say we’ve got the bragging rights, that’s fine. We’re happy if we can send our supporters home happy, but our objective is to win this league. That’s all we’re thinking about.”