The time was always going to come for David Gray.

After being trusted on no fewer than four occasions to keep the manager's seat warm for the next guy, the man who had already etched his name into Hibs history has accepted the chance to write a new chapter. The Scottish Cup-winning former skipper emerged as the club's preferred choice to succeed Nick Montgomery, finally taking the reins of his own accord after a multi-year, multi-manager apprenticeship.

Gray has seen it all at Easter Road. He's felt the lows as much as anyone but knows the highs can be dizzying beyond imagination. Having waited patiently for a chance to take the next step in a storied Hibs career, the 36-year-old's moment has arrived. You can say goodbye to the, 'I've just been asked to do a job' soundbites from the guy who steps in dutifully every time his superiors is relieved of their duties. This team is about to become his, and he has felt for some time that he's ready to carry that responsibility. So compelling was the case he made to Hibs' decision-makers, that they have backed him with a three-year contract.

There will be some trepidation among supporters, of course, especially those who are old enough to remember how it all unravelled for Franck Sauzee when he made the jump from pitch to dugout all those years ago. The rapid churn in Hibs managers over recent years creates an understandable fear for fans who do not want to see a man so idolised be chewed up and spat out like so many of his predecessors. But this is not an appointment based on romantic notions, nor is it about Gray simply sticking around for long enough for the job to eventually fall into his lap.

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Yes, he has no permanent managerial experience to speak of, but Hibs have been grooming him for this role from the moment he hung up his boots to stand next to Jack Ross on the touchline. He's served under four managers since then, played for several more, and the feeling now is that he has earned the chance to do the job in his own right. 

In an ideal world, perhaps, he would have gone elsewhere to sample managerial life before eventually returning to Leith, but truly perfect timing very rarely arises in football. As a meandering 2023/24 season descended into a disastrous one, it was impossible to escape the feeling of brutal disconnect between club and supporters, and the hope is that Gray - a man who lives and breathes Hibs - can be the man to restore that synergy.

As he sat in front of the press after his final match, Lewis Stevenson spoke of the need for someone to 'galvanise' the club, a figure who would command respect, understand what Hibs means to people, and with the requisite knowledge of Scottish football. A rookie he may be, but Gray ticks many important boxes.

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He is highly respected by the current crop of players, understands supporters' expectations, and his record as caretaker suggests he knows how to get results. He managed to convince sporting director Malky Mackay, who understands the demands and intricacies of the Scottish game, that he was the outstanding candidate to turn around the fortunes of an ailing team with a disillusioned fanbase.

"Following a robust recruitment process, David emerged as our preferred candidate and we are delighted to have him on board," said Mackay.  "Having watched his progression closely over a number of years, David’s ready to step up and become Hibs' head coach. David understands the pressures and demands that come with a club like Hibs, knows Scottish football inside out, is an excellent coach and a strong man-manager.

“He already has good relationships with the current playing squad and members of staff both at HTC and Easter Road, which provides an element of stability, and we know he’s the right man for the job. Everyone is looking forward to continuing to work closely with David for the upcoming season and beyond.”

Hibs have gone for the tried and tested in Ross, looked to England for Lee Johnson, and gambled on the left-field candidates in Shaun Maloney and Montgomery, with none able to provide the sustained success fans crave. Gray is unlikely to try and reinvent the wheel - at least, not yet - but perhaps that is what's needed following a season of failed attempts to implement a philosophical overhaul with little to no success.

What's crucial now is that he is adequately supported. Publicising that the search was for a 'head coach' was very deliberate, with the Mackay-led structure aimed at allowing the next man to do exactly that - coach the team. Hibs have found themselves left with a severely bloated squad assembled by several different managers, and it's a problem that Mackay must not only fix, but ensure does not happen again.

Hibs have cycled through bosses at an alarming rate, over and above what is the norm in an era of short managerial cycles. The impending appointment of Gray, with Mackay overseeing football operations, has to be a step towards achieving more cohesion in the football operation. With Mackay leading in areas such as recruitment, it should, theoretically, facilitate an end to the stockpiling of players identified and recruited by various managers, with transfer strategy taking on a more long-term, joined-up form.

For a first-timer such as Gray, this structure should take away various burdens and allow him to focus on putting a winning team on the pitch, and it's an appointment that makes sense within those parameters. Derek McInnes was a popular choice among fans when the job became available once more, but if Hibs are to commit to this structure for the long-term, his established way of working over several years was never likely to be a good fit.

What that structure must now do is provide for Gray. Hibs' squad is about to enter an almighty state of flux, notwithstanding the impact of already losing some highly influential figures. Just about every area of the pitch needs to be reinforced with quality and depth. The scale of change required means this is unlikely to all be fixed in the space of a single window, but that long-term change must run alongside an immediate process that gives Gray the greatest chance possible to succeed.

For all he's done for Hibernian Football Club, it's the very least the man deserves.