SCOTTISH CUP icon David Gray hopes he can keep playing for the entirety of his new four-year deal at Hibs – but is thrilled the club have laid down the foundations for his future off the pitch.
Gray has been joined by fellow defender Darren McGregor is penning a bumper long-term contract that does not expire until 2023.
Included in their agreements are formal roles for both as ‘club ambassadors’ and for player mentoring duties that will help them make the move into coaching.
About to turn 31 a week on Saturday, Gray has two years on McGregor and the former Manchester United trainee is keeping his fingers crossed he can stay in favour at first-team level for as long as possible.
However, the full-back, who joined the club after relegation to the Championship in 2014, is conscious of the need to prepare for life beyond playing and has welcomed the extra responsibility his new deal brings.
He said: “It was absolutely a no-brainer for me. It’s been a fantastic five years since I’ve been at the club, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
“It’s a real good place to be at the minute, an exciting time for Hibs, and there’s a lot of good young boys coming through as well, which is important. I think the club’s in real good shape at the moment.
“What’s driving me at the minute is the hunger to play football and as long as I’m able to do that, and the manager sees me in his plans, I’ll do everything I can to be as good as I can every week, for as long as that may be.
“Hopefully it’s for four years and I can play at the top end, but at the same time I’m not stupid enough to think I’m going to go on forever.
“I’m honoured and very grateful for the opportunity we’ve been given and it’s a real exciting time to be involved.
“It’s fantastic. First and foremost from a selfish point of view, it’s fantastic to have the security and to be able to play and be at a place where you’re wanted. That’s one of the most important things, to feel wanted by everyone involved.
“And I think the most important thing for me is, as your career gets towards the end, you automatically think about what you’re going to do next.
“But we’ve actually got a stepping stone here, where we can really give back a little bit of value to the club, and see where we go from there.”
McGregor, meanwhile, is fully aware the duo will come under the microscope of manager Paul Heckingbottom to ensure they do not ease off with the comfort of such a long-term contract.
The 33-year-old, who turns 34 in the first week of next season, added to Hibs TV: “First and foremost, we’re first-team players and we want to contribute week-in, week-out for the foreseeable future.
“But there will obviously come a point when that transitional period will happen – probably a bit sooner for myself than David, because he’s 30 and I’m getting on a bit!“
But it’s something that I look forward to. George [Craig] and Leeann [Dempster] have given us this great opportunity and it’s one we want to grasp with both hands.
“We want to contribute on the field but if we can contribute off it and help the younger guys develop then we’ll do that.
“I think there was a wee bit of apprehension from the gaffer, and rightly so, that we would maybe take our eyes off the ball, and he said he’s going to scrutinise us a wee bit closer.
“That’s fine. David and I both put our cases across and we can speak until we’re blue in the face about our commitment and how honest we are and how hard working we are, but the proof’s in the pudding.
“You’ll only see in the coming months and years what stand-up guys we are and we’ll give everything to the cause. Our main focus is playing every week and trying to help.”