DAVID Gray hopes to bow out on a high note if, as expected, tomorrow’s Edinburgh derby is his last game for Hibernian before a groin operation. Any leave-taking would only be temporary, but the full-back has been aware for some time that surgery is the probable solution to a problem that has increasingly interfered with his ability to train.
“I’ve not been taking injections but I’ve been doing everything I can to reduce the pain,” the 26-year-old explained. “Anti-inflammatories and all that stuff. But as for during games, the adrenaline’s high and the atmosphere helps. It’s been bearable.
“I’ve been doing stuff with the physios, doing swimming and lots of stretching. I’ve been able to train. It’s been about getting the right balance to make sure I’m as fit as possible.
“I’ve an appointment to see the surgeon and I think the Hearts game will be my last. It all depends on what the surgeon says. I had something similar done on the other side when I was younger and I was out for ten days. But I’ve heard of people being out for up to six weeks so I don’t know. Hopefully I will be back quickly.
“It comes to a point when you wonder if it is affecting my performance. Can I do the things I want to be doing? It’s getting to the stage when I’m not training as much as I like, so it was time to get it sorted as soon as possible. It’s always hard to go in for an operation but the lads are full of confidence, playing well and are creating lots of chances and, hopefully, they will kick on and I will be back soon.”
Gray himself has been playing with a lot of confidence lately, as seemed to be demonstrated by the way he scored his team’s first goal in their 4-0 demolition of Rangers last weekend. But he explained that the goal, fired in from the edge of the box after he opted to kill the ball rather than shoot first time, might in fact have owed something to a lack of confidence.
“I thought about hitting it first time, but I think I bottled it, I don’t know. But I can’t complain because it went in the top corner. My concern was that the ball would be blocked by a defender but once it went past I knew it had a chance of going in.
“I’m delighted to be scoring,” continued the defender, who now has three goals this season after not previously scoring at all in his senior career. “It’s credit to the lads, the way we play.
“The manager wants me to get forward and he gives me the confidence to do that. The other lads are creating chances and it’s great to be getting into those areas. But the most important thing for me last weekend was a clean sheet. As a defender, your first aim is not to concede and I’d swap that for goals any week.
“If we can play like that against Hearts, great. But they are where they are because they are a good side. They’re undefeated. But we take a lot of confidence from the weekend and also from the last time we played Hearts. We know if we’re on our game we are a match for any team.”
Hearts snatched a 1-1 draw in that game thanks to Alim Ozturk’s 40-yard strike. But Gray insisted that, no matter the disappointment of having victory snatched away, he and his team-mates could still be pleased with the way they had played.
“In that last game, we dominated and their guy scored a great goal. Nine times out of ten we’d be happy for someone to shoot from there in injury time, because nine times out of ten it hits Row Z. But it went in the top corner and we move on. We still took confidence from it because they were top of the league and unbeaten but we more than matched them.
“We’ve always had belief since I joined this club. I was pleasantly surprised how good the talent here is. The performances have been good but sometimes results weren’t and that overshadowed our performances – rightly so. But the more we work together it’s starting to click.
“I played in the first game at Tynecastle” – a 2-1 win for Hearts after Hibs’ Liam Craig had failed to score from the penalty spot at 0-0. “If Liam’s penalty had gone in it would have been a different game altogether. But that’s what happens in football. We go into this weekend full of confidence but we know we need to be on our game.”
The omens have been good for Hibs before a few big games over the last year or two, only for them to under-perform on the day. This time, however, Gray is sure the away fans can turn up at Tynecastle confident that their team will give it everything.
“We always give 100 per cent,” he said. “We train like that Monday to Friday right through the team and the one thing you could never fault us on is not trying. There’s been a couple of games we’ve not got the results, but performances generally have been good.
“We go there with confidence and, if anything, Hearts might be a bit more wary of us. We need to show them the respect they deserve because they are unbeaten and at the top of the league, but we have nothing to fear.”