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Friday, June 14, 2024

What could Gray appointment mean for Hibs?

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Hibernian appear poised to elevate the man already known by fans as Sir David Gray to the position of head coach on a permanent basis.At the relatively young age of 36, he has already had four spells as caretaker during a mere three years since switching from playing to coaching at the club he captained to Scottish Cup glory in 2016.But what can Hibs fans expect if Gray, already considered a club legend for that Hampden success, is confirmed as the man they want to lead their squad for the foreseeable future after agreeing to take over in principle?Gray agrees in principle to be permanent Hibs bossAdditional 20 Premiership games live on TVLocal knowledge, leadership and honoursBeing Edinburgh born and having started as a youth with Heart of Midlothian, Gray already knew all about what it means to have the bragging rights in Scotland’s capital even before arriving at Easter Road and led the side in city derbies.He will have also garnered a big-club mentality having progressed to Manchester United and, although he only made one brief substitute appearance for the first team at Old Trafford, his leadership qualities were spotted early as captain of the Premier League club’s reserve side.Doing the rounds on loan to Royal Antwerp, Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle before spells with Preston North End, Stevenage and Burton Albion will also have given him an outlook broader than Scottish shores.Having slipped down the English pecking order to League Two, it was upon joining Hibs in 2014 that the former Scotland Under-21 international’s career really took off, albeit with a club languishing in Scotland’s second tier.Again, his leadership qualities led to him taking over as club captain at the end of his first season.Of course, his most famous day in the sun was to come the following year, the skipper scoring the stoppage-time winner as fellow Championship side Rangers were beaten 3-2 and Hibs lifted the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years.More honours were to come the following season as Hibs won the title and promotion back to the top flight and top-six Premiership finishes that Gray will now be tasked with replicating.Uniting figure but fans dividedHibs have gone down the previously successful route in Jack Ross, the big name in Shaun Maloney, the experienced English incomer in Lee Johnson and the league winning rising star in Nick Montgomery.Now, as former Hibs midfielder Guillaume Beuzelin, now a key figure in the club’s academy system, has been quoted as saying, they appear to have gone for someone guaranteed to unite the entire club behind his leadership.Someone current left-back Jordan Obita said he and his team-mates respect “completely”.It will, of course, be argued that such insiders are bound to say nice things publicly – and the fans do appear divided about the appointment despite their former captain’s lauded status.Some think that he has already proved himself capable in his spells as caretaker and that, having already appointed former Cardiff City manager and Scottish FA performance chief Malky Mackay as sporting director, he will have plenty of valuable experience to call upon.Indeed, after a win and draw under Gray at the end of the season, he has a 50% win rate across the 12 games he has been in charge of over his four caretaker spells. That is better than all previous six permanent managers.Some fans would, though, have preferred Gray had cut his teeth elsewhere before returning to Easter Road and fear that, like former midfielder Franck Sauzee before him, his legendary status could be tarnished if he becomes another short-term casualty of Hibs’ high expectations.It was a sentiment echoed by former Livingston manager Allan Preston, who predicted on BBC Scotland’s Sportsound that Hibs would go for “someone more experienced and exciting” and feared that Mackay might be too dominant personality in their relationship dynamic.Former Motherwell captain Stephen Craigen also thought Hibs might want someone more colourful than Gray, “someone not in the norm in Scotland”, such as Aberdeen have done in appointing Jimmy Thelin from Elfsborg.Squad rebuild aheadAs for Gray himself, he has said: “I believe I am ready. I feel I’ve gained a lot of experience, always in difficult situations. I’ve also had the benefit of four different coaching styles.”I was learning the whole time, piecing it all together and implementing what a successful Hibs team could look like.”It is maybe as well Gray was a defender himself considering Hibs’ problems have long been in the back line, with veteran stalwarts Lewis Stevenson and Paul Hanlon having already been released and loanee Will Fish returning to Manchester United.Unfortunately for Gray and Mackay, two of their top performers in the second half of the season have also exited and finances will make it difficult for Hibs to afford their return.Striker Myziane Maolida has indicated he has more lucrative offers after his successful spell on loan from Hertha Berlin, while midfielder Emiliano Marcondes is also likely to have suitors following his release by Bournemouth.Meanwhile, Hibs are sitting on an offer from an unnamed French Ligue 1 club for Elie Youan and a decision is pending on the future of the talented but erratic forward.A busy summer transfer window lies ahead before Hibs open their season away to Elgin City in the League Cup group stage on 13 July before they turn their attentions to improving on an eighth-place Premiership finish.As Craigen points out, new investor Bill Foley “is ruthless and wants success – he wants it to happen now”.However, Gray at least has the advantage of some history making credits in the bank as Hibs finally look for some long-term stability and success.Visit our Hibs page for all the latest news, analysis and fan viewsGet Hibs news notifications in the BBC Sport app

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