David Gray is unlikely to ever go on the record with every single thing he believes needs remedying at Hibs.

Reading between the lines, though, it’s hardly a stretch to suggest the recently-appointed head coach considers on-pitch leadership a high priority. It’s been a theme of a still relatively fledgling rebuild, both in recruitment and the messages Gray has communicated to his players. His first two outfield signings, Warren O’Hora and Marvin Ekpiteta, have worn the captain’s armband for their previous clubs and arrived at Easter Road with some glowing character references. Others already in the building, namely Martin Boyle and Josh Campbell, have spoken candidly about being asked to step up and lead from the front.

“I’m not a kid anymore, I need to speak up more,” Campbell said in the aftermath of the friendly victory over Edinburgh City.

“I’m probably not the most vocal but my performances on the pitch and standards in training can probably be where my leadership comes through," Boyle said a few days later.

Their own words, of course, but it’s not hard to imagine they’re paraphrasing what Gray has imparted upon them in recent weeks. The new head coach has clearly wasted no time in setting out what he expects, yet neither Campbell nor Boyle spoke as though they’d been saddled with a burden. Instead, they both described a feeling of ‘belief’ in them from Gray, as opposed to an outright demand they become leaders overnight.

As part of his rationale for appointing Gray as head coach, sporting director Malky Mackay zeroed in on the former Easter Road captain's qualities as a ‘people catcher’, and it seems he’s already understood the importance of taking everyone with him in this period of transition. Establishing new leadership figures was always on the cards this summer, from the moment Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson said their goodbyes, and David Marshall announced his retirement.

The void created by the departures of Hanlon and Stevenson, with more than 1000 Hibs appearances between them, simply cannot be overstated. The moment may well have been right to usher in a new era - only time will tell - but, either way, replacing the intangible qualities of two men who lived and breathed Hibs is no easy task. Of the countless sincere tributes that followed the end of their Easter Road careers, the vast majority singled out their excellence as people ahead of anything they could do on the pitch.

Their on-field influence certainly diminished last season, with both used sparingly, but their influence off it will not have waned. Gray, having witnessed this first-hand over so many years, will have known all too well that encouraging others to have a similar influence moving forward would be of paramount importance in the short and long term.

There’s been considerable speculation over who he will choose to succeed Hanlon as club captain, but there’s a broader picture taking shape. Whoever takes the armband will become the team’s figurehead, but it’s clear Gray wants still foster leadership across the board. After all, can you really replace Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson? Probably not, but you can at least aspire to the example they set, and use it as a benchmark.

Appointing a captain, however, does remain an important decision for Gray, but it is also one he won't rush. There are numerous options available to him. It was Gray who first handed the armband to Joe Newell during his first interim spell in charge for a match against St Mirren, and the midfielder has taken the armband on several occasions since, including during pre-season. Boyle and Campbell both skippered the side during pre-season and as mentioned, Ekpiteta and O'Hora have experience of captaining teams as well. 

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Whatever happens, characters and leadership are at the forefront of Gray’s efforts to rebuild Hibs. The accusation repeatedly levelled at this team last season is that it was ‘too soft’, and the glut of points surrendered to late goals throughout the campaign did little to dispel the notion that it was a wholly accurate one.

Nick Montgomery posited that it was a psychological issue, and even suggested he had plans to bring in an outside expert to help alleviate it. Regardless of how he intends to address the issue, Gray will know that any changes he attempts to implement in playing style or tactics will be worthless if Hibs continue to be as brittle as they were last season.

His solution seems to be fast-tracking a culture of leadership that does not fall on any one individual, but on the collective. You'd never find Gray accused of lacking fortitude as a player, so it's a dead certainty he won't ever want to hear it levelled at his team either.