By: Hibernian Media on 08 Feb, 2019 11:17
Ahead of Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup Fifth Round visit of Raith Rovers, Hibernian club captain David Gray sat down with Hibs TV.
The scorer of THAT goal, David obviously speaks from experience about what the competition means to him and everyone involved with the club.
However, he’s also keen to ensure that remains a memory – not THE memory – with a burning desire to repeat that 2016 success.
You can watch the full interview on Hibs TV and on our YouTube channel.
David, put simply, what does the Scottish Cup mean to you?
It’s changed a lot now since we won it that day in May. We see it from the start of the season as an opportunity to win something. The league is always a big ask given how dominant Celtic have been over the years so the cups are competitions we genuinely feel we can go on and win.
What makes the Scottish Cup such a special competition?
With the Scottish Cup, in general, you always see an underdog winning. It’s just that magic of the cup and I think it’s fantastic for the ‘lesser’ clubs to get that opportunity to play on the big stage against teams that they would maybe never have the chance to play against. For the likes of us it’s an opportunity to try and win something.
How aware were you of the ‘since 1902’ narrative?
I think when I first joined the club it was one of the first things I thought about. Growing up in Edinburgh I knew how much it meant to the supporters and how long it had been. The heartache they’d had, they’d been so close and got to so many finals. It was one thing I’d talked about with a couple of my mates, saying it’s one thing I would love to do. To try and win the Scottish Cup for Hibs would be the ultimate achievement of my career.
When you look back, what was going through your head in the build-up to the Scottish Cup Final in May 2016?
It came at the very end of a very long season. Your season has maybe been a success, average or sometimes a long, bad season. When we won the Scottish Cup we’d just failed to win promotion, which was our main objective for the season. Going in to the game, we were probably on an all-time low for the season. We knew how important it was to end the season on a high. No-one remembers that we didn’t get promoted on the back of that. It was the best weekend of my career, if not my life.
Was there a defining moment along the way that sticks out?
Obviously we had Paul scoring in the last minute against Hearts when we’d been 2-0 down at Tynecastle. After coming back to get the draw, we always knew going into the second leg that we were on top. We thought we’d start the game well and as long as we did that we always thought we were going to be good enough to get the win. The big one, for me, was having to deal with losing the League Cup Final to Ross County and then having to go up to Inverness for the Scottish Cup replay a few days later. That was the one I thought ‘if there’s ever a game we’re going to struggle, this might be it’. The boys maybe would feel sorry for themselves. All the excuses were there. But it showed the character and the togetherness that there was at that time. After that game, that’s when I sat there thinking ‘this could really be the time’.
The Falkirk play-off defeat, in particular, must have been so hard to take. How do you pick yourselves up so quickly from that?
You always have to back yourself. That was a massive disappointment. It was on the Friday night and we had the Saturday and Sunday off. That was probably the lowest I’ve felt in my career. It felt like we’d been relegated and not just missed out on promotion. We knew how much it meant to the club, to the supporters and everyone involved. To achieve promotion was what we’d set out to do from the start of the season so there was that sense of underachievement and failure but we knew we had a week to get ready for the biggest game of the season. We knew if we turned up and played as well as we could then we had the beating of Rangers. We honestly came in on the Monday knowing we were going to win that game. Everyone, to a man, knew that we were capable of winning.
How much do you remember about the winning goal and what followed?
Stokesy had obviously just scored from the corner before. We’d worked all week on set-pieces with John Doolan. I remember him saying that it offered us a great chance to score a goal against them. We’d worked on that and knew Hendo’s deliveries were always on the money. I was set up to attack that near-post area. Niklas Gunnarsson was going go first and I was in behind. But as soon as the ball came in I thought ‘I’m going to get this’. It was the right flight. I knew I was going to get it. From the minute I headed it I can’t actually remember much until I was booked by the referee for my celebration.
What about the celebrations that followed?
It was the start of the best weekend of my life, apart from the birth of my children. After the dust settled it was overwhelming. We knew it was going to be big, but it really sunk in when we got to the top of the Royal Mile and just saw a sea of green and white. That’s when we realised what it meant to everyone and it’s a memory that will stay with me forever.
A lot of people have passed comment that it feels like a weight was lifted from the shoulders of the club after winning the Scottish Cup and that it feels altogether different now. Do you go along with that?
It was the start of a real feelgood factor around the club and the next season we pushed on to win promotion. The following season after that we pushed on to win the record point tally in the SPFL period. It was the start of a really good time for Hibs and that feeling is still pumping through the club.
It obviously had a profound impact on the lives of supporters?
It put it into perspective for me when you were speaking to supporters after games and you’d hear people say ‘my Dad took me to every game, every Cup Final’ or ‘my Dad is 85 years old and never thought he’d see that, so thank you’. They got that moment and that’s when it sinks in. You take it for granted when you’re still playing because you move on to the next thing and the next thing for us was to win promotion. It might not be until we stop playing and reflect on our careers that we realise just how special that was.
You’ve had marriage proposals and all sorts of other tributes since. What stands out?
There are some good tattoos, to be fair. Some are quite flattering. Some others are not so flattering. There’s one that got me a comparison to Phil Mitchell. I think I’ve got a few years on him so I’m not sure that’s a compliment. There have been a few random ones with names tattooed in places they shouldn’t be!
Having said all that, how important is it to ensure that we do all we can do make sure that day wasn’t a one-off?
Definitely. That’s the most important thing. It’s not just a case of ‘we’ve done that now, I don’t need to think about that again’. I want to be the person that goes and does it again. I think everyone who was involved that day is desperate to do it again. We’ve got an opportunity at home to Raith Rovers on Saturday because that’s where it all starts again. When you look back on your career it’s about what you’ve won. It’s not ‘I managed to play in this game and that’. I think it’s about winning things.
What do you expect from Raith Rovers?
We always had tough games against them in the Championship. I’m delighted it’s a home tie. I’m sure they’ll come and think they have nothing to lose. All the pressure is on us and it’s up to us to make sure that we turn up on the day.