David Gray explained that his biggest task since becoming Hibernian caretaker manager has been trying to raise the morale of a dressing room left shattered by the sacking of Jack Ross.
The former Hibs captain was handed the reins on an interim basis on Thursday morning, immediately after learning that Ross and assistant John Potter – both hugely popular among the players and staff – had paid the price for a run of seven defeats in nine cinch Premiership matches, culminating in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Livingston.
Gray, 33, admits it has been difficult period for everyone at the club and has been doing everything he can to try and lift spirits ahead of Saturday’s trip to St Mirren.
He said: “It’s been a massive shock to everybody involved. It was a bit flat yesterday for obvious reasons. It’s never nice when two people lose their job. You can tell by the atmosphere around the place that it was a sad day for everyone involved.
“You could see that by the reaction of not just the players but the wider staff at the training ground when they heard the news. I think that’s credit to the manager and John Potter for the environment they created and how well liked they are by everybody. It’s a sad for everyone who was involved yesterday.
“Today (Friday) has been all about trying to pick the players up and get ourselves ready for tomorrow. I’m not saying we forget about what’s happened but we have to use it to motivate us in whatever way we can to move forward and try and win tomorrow.
“Training has been really positive today, the boys look bright. I think they know they have got to react from Wednesday night because, from a professional point of view, they weren’t good enough.”
Gray, who retired from playing to become a first-team coach last summer, loved his two years with Ross as manager.
He said: “He’s been fantastic with me since the moment he came in. I was club captain when he came in but probably one of the biggest compliments I can give him is he never picked me very much as a player towards the end, but I still liked him, which isn’t always the case.
“I was desperate to play but the relationship I had with him was fantastic, he was very transparent and open with me. Ultimately that’s why, when he offered me the chance to stop playing and become a coach with him, I was delighted to do it.
“I knew I would be able to learn from someone I had a very opinion of, professionally and as a person.
“I was disappointed to hear the news yesterday but even then, when we had the conversation, he made it clear if I ever needed anything he would only be a phone call away. He’s someone I’ll definitely keep in touch with.
“His time here was a success. You only need to look at the team he inherited when we were near the bottom of the league (in November 2019).
“Then he had to go on and deal with the Covid side of it, a really difficult time when people were losing their jobs throughout the club, and then for the team to go on and finish third, which hadn’t been done for 16 years, and then we reached semi-finals and a final, and now we’ve reached another final this year.
“Ultimately results haven’t been good enough recently and the manager always carries the can for that in football, but you can definitely say he’s left the club in a better place than when he first started, that’s for sure. He’s done a fantastic job, in my opinion.”
Gray refused to be drawn on whether he wants the job on a permanent basis or whether he still expects to be in charge for the Premier Sports Cup final against on Sunday week.
He said: “All I’m focused on is preparing the team for St Mirren tomorrow. My future is irrelevant.”