David Gray: No Hampden heroics repeat for Hibs talisman as coach reflects on 'whirlwind'

He had turned up at Hampden, hailed as some kind of cup final talisman. Looking for any omens to cling to, the presence of the 2016 Scottish Cup winner in the technical area was viewed as a positive sign.

Hibs Caretaker Manager David Gray celebrates his side going ahead during the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park, on December 19, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Hibs Caretaker Manager David Gray celebrates his side going ahead during the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park, on December 19, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

But, after his team were overhauled by Celtic in the first major cup final of the season, Hibs fans were forced to accept that David Gray is not the answer to every Hampden conundrum.

Thrust into the interim manager role by the enforced departure of his coaching mentor and former gaffer Jack Ross, Gray knew it would take more than wishful thinking to conjure up silverware but the fact that the players gave it a good go left him with a feeling of pride to take the edge off of the full-time dismay.

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“There is disappointment, but I am also really proud of the players. The way they have handled everything in the last 10 days has been a credit to them. After the game I thanked them for all their effort and hard work.

Paul Hanlon celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 Hibs during the Premier Sports Cup Final between Celtic and Hibernian at Hampden Park, on December 19, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

“They gave myself and Eddie [May] absolutely everything.

“I thought we were good in the game. I thought the boys gave me absolutely everything. I said to them before the game that as long as they give me absolutely everything and came away with no regrets they will be in a good place come the end. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get it over the line.”

Having weathered a Celtic onslaught without presenting their rivals with too many chances, the Leith side actually opened the scoring through Paul Hanlon but within a minute they were pegged back.

“That was the disappointing thing for us. You get a goal in the game, you go in front, and then to lose a goal so quickly is obviously a massive blow. It would have been a bit different if we could have held out for the next five or 10 minutes. The second goal from our point of view is not good enough defensively. The players know that. We will look at that moving forward. But I don’t think they should have been defending a free-kick in the first place. I don’t understand how that is a foul on the halfway line. If that is a foul on the halfway line I have no idea how it is not a penalty in the box late on. I don’t see how one can be a foul and the other one not be. I don’t get it at all.”

Hibs caretaker manager David Gray (left) and Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Gray is expected to stay on as part of the coaching staff when the new regime assumes control on Monday. But, he says he will take some time to reflect on his spell at the helm.

“Once the dust settles I will probably look back at it. It has been a whirlwind in the last nine or 10 days. The most important thing for me to take away from it is I am proud of the players, I am grateful for how much they have given me and Eddie.

“It is never easy in these situations and I think you could see the reaction last week when Jack and John lost their jobs. I am very grateful for what they have given me. We will move on and see what happens.”

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