Lewis Stevenson today admitted it will be harder than ever for Hibs to win the Scottish Cup – but he insisted there’s no reason why he and his team-mates can’t repeat their historic win of last season.
The club’s 114-year hoodoo was smashed when skipper David Gray’s last-minute header defeated Rangers last May and now they begin their bid to become the first team outwith the Old Firm to retain the trophy since Aberdeen in the early 1980s when they face Junior outfit Bonnyrigg Rose at Tynecastle on Saturday.
As holders, Stevenson admitted everyone will be looking to topple Hibs, recalling how they’d done exactly that themselves in beating Capital rivals Hearts as they set out to defend the trophy four years ago.
The 29-year-old, the only Hibs player to hold winner’s medals for both the League and Scottish Cups, said: “It was hard enough to win it the first time and it will probably be even harder because people will want to take our scalp being the holders – starting with Bonnyrigg. Teams will rise to the occasion playing against us.
“It doesn’t mean we’ve got any less to play for than we did last year. It would be another massive deal if we can go on a good run. We want to keep the momentum that we’ve created recently and there is no better way to do it than going on a cup run.”
Lifting the cup last season helped soothe the pain of missing out on a return to the Premiership but, while promotion is the over-riding priority for Neil Lennon’s players – currently six points clear at the top of the Championship – Stevenson believes the fans will be just as demanding this time round.
He said: “They’ll want as much silverware as possible. We’ve got good enough a squad to win it so I don’t see any reason why we can’t. It is a tough task because it took us 100-odd years to do it last time so it will be just as hard.
“We’ve been on decent runs in the last few seasons in the cup. We got to the final of the League Cup as well last season. It was a distraction last season, but a welcome distraction. You do try to enjoy the game and hope the fans do too. We’ll enjoy the games when they come but the league is our main priority.”
Hibs made early exits from both the Challenge and League Cups this season, much to everyone’s surprise but Stevenson argued: “It was still pretty early in the season. We were still finding our feet. We’ve not got that excuse now.”
Switching the match to Tynecastle will, Stevenson claimed, bring back happy memories, Hibs having come back from 2-0 down with ten minutes to play to force a draw before beating Hearts in the replay on their way to Hampden last season. The Gorgie ground was also the venue for their League Cup semi-final win over St Johnstone although he warned the stadium is also likely to bring out the best in Bonnyrigg.
He said: “Our recent memories of Tynecastle are good. We’ve had some decent performances and results there, so we’ll look forward to it.
“It’s a good stadium with a good atmosphere. They’ve sold lots of tickets and they’ll be up for playing at a ground like that as well. It will maybe help us rather than going to Bonnyrigg because we are used to it and I’m sure if we perform on the day we should win – but it’s never easy being at Hibs.”