Being a Scottish Cup-winning captain is usually enough to guarantee a place in any club’s folklore. Scoring the winning goal in the final to end a 114-year drought should automatically, then, confer legendary status on the lucky individual and David Gray will probably never need to put his hand in his pocket again in any pub in Leith after his last-minute winner against Rangers last year.
However, it appears that even immortality doesn’t last forever, as Gray is currently discovering. The return to Easter Road of Scotland full-back Steven Whittaker has reduced the 29-year-old’s game time, to the extent that he has started more games in the Betfred Cup (four) than the Premiership (three).
Manager Neil Lennon knows a talisman when he sees one, though, and the Irishman may well restore Gray to the side for tomorrow’s Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic.
“Strength in depth and competition for places is important,” he said. “It’s good for me to be pushed because you can’t rest on your laurels and expect to play all the time.
“I’m up for the fight and it’s up to me every single day in training to make sure I am always available and that I play as well as I can when I get the nod.”
Gray, right, is convinced that running Celtic so close on their own patch last month, coupled with the cup runs the club has enjoyed in recent seasons, will help Hibs to hold their own at Hampden.
“It’s a good thing when you’re coming away from Parkhead disappointed at not having won the game,” he claimed. “It shows how well we did on the day.
“That won’t have any bearing on this weekend, though. Celtic are a fantastic team and their record is there for everybody to see. It’s up to the rest of the teams to stop them and we’ve an opportunity to do that this weekend.
“We need to take confidence from the cup runs we’ve had in recent seasons. It’s a semi-final and we’ll go in as underdogs but we’ll be more than capable of getting a result.”
Gray hasn’t quite worn out his Scottish Cup final DVD (“I haven’t watched it today – yet”) but the memory of his day in the sun is burned indelibly on his memory.
“Initially I watched it a lot and I’d get reminded of it on social media,” he said. “It was nice to get pats on the back but, once the dust settled, it was time to put it behind me. I can reflect on it when I’ve retired. hopefully.”
Success in this tournament would mean a great deal to Gray, who admits he is “haunted” by Alan Stubbs’ side’s 2-1 defeat by Ross County in the final two seasons ago.
“We lost at Hampden on the Sunday and we then had Inverness away in the Scottish Cup on the Wednesday so we used it as motivation,” he recalled.
“The feeling I had that night going home is something I never want to experience again. To have done so well in the final and not win it was really disappointing. It felt like something that had got away for us that season.
“Obviously, the way the season ended, we forgot about it… to a point. Anyway, there are only four teams left in this competition and we know we’re capable of doing well in it.”