Hibs legend Eric loses cancer battle

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ERIC Stevenson died aged 74, following a two-year fight against stomach cancer - he was a Hibs fan, who got to wear the famous green shirt with white sleeves and became a club legend and Hall of Fame member.

He was born into a mining family, near Harthill and was brought-up by his grandmother, then following her death, he was fostered-out to an aunt and uncle in Bonnyrigg.

In the long run, this proved fortuitous, since his Uncle Tom, known as ‘Elk’, was a Hibbees fanatic, who co-founded the Bonnyrigg Hibs Supporters Club and from a young age he took Eric to Easter Road. Leaving school at 15, Eric went down the pit, at Lady Victoria in Newtongrange before his natural football talent brought him to the surface.

Hibbee he might have been, but, it was Hearts who signed him. However, in their eagerness to secure him, they put him on a full professional contract – which he was too young to sign. The SFA found out, Hearts were fined £150 and the teenaged Stevenson was a free agent.

Once Hibs came calling, he rejected the advances of Manchester United to fulfill his ambition and play at Easter Road. He would spend 11 years with his club, playing 390 games and scoring 79 goals.

He made his debut, in a 2-0 defeat to St Johnstone, at Muirton, on October 8, 1960 and scored his first goal for the club, against Clyde, at the end of that season, on 22 April, 1961.

Once he got into the team, his talent as a dribbler was soon evident and he was a key man for Hibs in some of their great European nights of the 1960s. He also delighted in beating Hearts, particularly relishing his brace in a 4-0 Tynecastle win in 1965 – when Jimmy O’Rourke also scored twice.

However, that dream was to be crushed in 1971, when Eddie Turnbull sold him to Ayr United. He did not fit the template Turnbull had for his players, so he was released into the care of former team-mate, fellow outside-left and free spirit, Ally MacLeod at Ayr United.

At Somerset Park, his continuing love affair with Hibs got in the way. He was supposed to be playing for United against Dumbarton, in a First Division match, at Somerset Park, on 9 September, 1972. Except, Eric was elsewhere, he was at Hampden watching ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’ demolish Celtic in the 1972 League Cup final. Word got back to an unimpressed Ally, who fined him two-weeks’ wages.

“I happily paid the fine, I would have paid four weeks’ wages, it was worth it to be there to see Hibs win”, was Eric’s response.

At the end of that season, he hung-up his boots, to concentrate on the business he had opened in Dalkeith.

The Hibs family never forgot Eric. In 2012 he was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame and he was always popular with the fans at Easter Road, as he continued to follow the club.

He battled his stomach cancer with resolution and dignity, but, it was a battle he could not win. He is survived by his wife Agnes, daughters Sonya and Nadia and grandchildren Owen, Aidan, Connor, Lucy and Logan.

MATT VALLANCE