NEW Hibs captain David Gray believes the lessons he learned at the feet of Manchester United legends Roy Keane and Gary Neville will help him act as a father figure to a new generation of youngsters at Easter Road.
Gray spent five years at Old Trafford having made the move south from Hearts as a teenager and although he didn’t make any appearances under Sir Alex Ferguson, the values instilled in him remain to this day.
The defender, however, insisted that while he can fall back on those experiences, he very much intends to be his own man, anticipating little will change now that he’s the leader of Alan Stubbs’ squad.
He said: “I am very proud and humbled to be given the captaincy. I experienced it a couple of times last season standing in for Liam [Craig] and it’s something I really enjoyed, but this is my first time as the actual captain of a club.
“The manager has shown faith in me and picked me as his club captain. The only reason he’s done that is because of the way I’ve been before, the way I’ve conducted myself. I’ll be myself and I won’t say that I’ll do this and do that because of other people, I’ll be who I am.
“I’ll just go about my business in the same way. Nothing really changes. I am quite lucky in terms of it being quite an easy dressing room. The lads are really good and the likes of Fonts [Liam Fontaine] and a few others have experience. But everyone mucks in together, it’s not really a changing room that’s hard to deal with.”
Nevertheless, Gray admitted the upbringing he enjoyed as he looked up to such respected figures as Keane and Neville has remained with him during a career which has also taken him to Royal Antwerp, Crewe, Plymouth, Preston, Stevenage and Burton.
The 27-year-old, who recently extended his Easter Road contract, said: “At Manchester United they don’t just teach you to be good at football, it’s about your conduct on and off the pitch and being professional throughout your whole career. I’ve been lucky enough to get that education and hopefully that can stand me in good stead.
“You need to have great ability to be playing at the highest level but you’re also in the public eye all the time and you need to have that level of professionalism.
“Roy Keane was the club captain when I first went but I was only 16. Roy would also look after the young lads but I was that young, you would only really speak to him when spoken to – that kind of thing. That’s the attitude I had towards it.
“Gary was good with me in terms of if I had any problems or wanted to ask him anything. He was always good with the young lads. He had been there and done it, he came through the youth system and been there his whole career.
“He knew what it was like to be a young player at United. It’s more about expectation levels and keeping your feet on the floor as it’s easy to get carried away because you’re training with top players.”
Now Gray hopes he can bring that same influence to bear on teenagers such Lewis Allan, Scott Martin, Aaron Dunsmore and Callum Crane who all joined Stubbs’ squad at their Spanish training resort in La Manga this past week.
Gray said: “I would like to think that any of them can come to me for advice if they need it. They have been around the squad before.
“They’ve always been welcome in the dressing room and if any of the young lads had any issues I’d like to think they could speak to anyone and not be intimidated.”
n Hibs ended their stint in La Manga by slipping to a 2-1 defeat by English League One side Wigan in a “bounce” match yesterday.
Fraser Fyvie gave Hibs the lead in the 13th minute against his old club, but Gary Caldwell’s side hit back, Martyn Waghorn netting 20 minutes from time before making it two with only 90 seconds left on the clock.