There was almost an inevitability about Josh Campbell bundling home a header for the only goal of Hibernian's pre-season friendly victory over MSV Duisburg earlier this week. The midfielder scored the fifth goal against Edinburgh City last weekend and was visibly buoyant in the aftermath of that game - something influenced by the appointment of David Gray as head coach of the Scottish Premiership outfit.

Campbell revealed that Gray is someone who has stuck up for him over the years, and speaking from Hibs' training camp in the Netherlands, the Easter Road head coach explained why he rates the 24-year-old so highly. 

“He’s a very important player. He’s someone I’ve admired for a long time. I’ve played with him, I know him, I’ve coached him. He’s had challenges; he’s been on loan and it didn’t work out so he has had that adversity early in his career. He had a lot of things he needed to work on which he is conscious of and continuing to work on but I think everyone can see he’s a huge asset to the club," Gray says. 

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Campbell sat out a significant chunk of last season after suffering a complex injury at the end of December and his absence was keenly felt by Nick Montgomery, as Hibs struggled to a bottom-six finish that ultimately spelled the end for the former Central Coast Mariners boss. But Gray is hopeful that Campbell can step up this season and assume the mantle left behind by the departed Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson. 

"Josh is a Hibs fan, he came through the academy, he knows what it means. He’s taken the extra responsibility on board. He’s seen players like Lewis and Paul leave, and there’s no reason why Josh can’t go on and do that or, if he keeps progressing the way he is, move onto bigger and better things. He’s got that in his locker," Gray continues.

“But that’s a standard and a responsibility that needs to be there every day. The reason these guys have had such long careers and been successful for the club is because of how they apply themselves every single day, how they are seen in the dressing room every single day. The way they apply themselves and maintain standards, calling people out but also delivering on a match day.  That’s the main driving force behind it. He knows he's got my full backing and I believe in him to push on this season."

Gray has made no secret of his desire to have the right people in his dressing room, both in a footballing sense and a character sense, and Campbell would appear to tick both boxes. Having already entrusted him with the captain's armband for the second half against Edinburgh City, the head coach is hopeful that Campbell can benefit from the increased responsibility as well as taking his game to the next level.

“His key strength for me is his ability to get into the box and get back and defend. His fitness is brilliant. The challenge for him is always going to be, how many goal involvements he can get," Gray explains. 

“Every time we score a goal or get the ball in the box my challenge to him is, ‘Can I see you in that picture, in the box, every time?’ He’s got the capacity to do it. And then when we lose the ball and we’re defending our box or we lose a goal, can I see him in that picture every time as well?

“Josh absolutely has the energy and the drive to be able to do that. I think the ten position suits him in terms of being able to run beyond, but also to be able to recover again. He’s a different type of ten, rather than just a creative one. But I’m not pigeonholing him into being a running ten; not at all. He can play these different positions and he’s reliable enough to be able to do it," Gray adds.

“When asked to do it, it’s good to have someone reliable and trustworthy to do a job for you. We won’t have one way of playing all the time but Josh can play as a ten, or he can play as an eight, or a six depending on how we want to play, or if we’re chasing games. But to have that flexibility, as I keep saying, is a big asset."

But while it's all well and good having a versatile midfielder like Campbell in his squad, Gray is only too aware of the need to bring in reinforcements in attack, with Dylan Vente somewhat isolated in terms of being the only out-and-out centre-forward in the squad as things stand. 

"It’s definitely an area we’re short in at the moment and it’s something the club is working hard to sort. It’s the most important position on the pitch so to have as many options in there as possible would be ideal for me," Gray admits. 

“I know it’s not as simple as that, but the squad will evolve and we’re constantly working to see what we can bring in and that’s something that will sort itself out in the coming days and weeks but it’s probably where we are right now. I have to get the best out of what we’ve got right now, but at the same time, can we add to that? My full focus is on improving what we’ve got just now. And obviously having a wish list of what I need to make us better."

Hibs benefited last season from the loan signings of Myziane Maolida and Emiliano Marcondes, and Gray sees no reason why the club can't attract other 'marquee' players - but right now he is fully focused on ensuring the team has a strong core. 

“The position we’re in now, we’re very fortunate to have the Gordon family, who have been so generous ever since they’ve come to the club. With the structure that is now in place, and with the added investment of the Black Knights and the avenues we can explore there, you saw last season how it can work," Gray says. 

“We have the opportunity to bring a marquee player to the club at times; sprinkle a little bit of magic over the top. But we’re really focusing, at the moment, on getting the core of the team right for Hibs. If we get that right, then the other things can be added. It's all about bringing in people for Hibs who can pave the way for the next two or three years, then we can always add around that.

“The squad will evolve all the time. Let’s make sure we get the right characters, the right people to the club, who are here for the right reasons and trying to drive the club forward and push it back to where it needs to be.”