Lewis Stevenson has spent the past few days trying to come to terms with the fact he is the only player in the history of football who has won both of Scotland’s major cup competitions with Hibs.
The Kirkcaldy boy’s career thus far is virtually bookended by triumph in green and white. He shot to prominence with a man-of-the-match performance as a teenager in the 2007 League Cup final victory over Kilmarnock. And last Saturday Stevenson completed a unique double by helping Hibs win the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1902.
Whatever unfolds in the future, he will always be the first man to win both competitions with the Easter Road club. “It’s mad,” said Stevenson. “There are players ten times better than me who have played for Hibs without winning this – or winning any trophies, in some cases. To win the League Cup and Scottish Cup is unbelievable for me. I feel lucky that I’ve been here long enough to compete for cups often enough. Now to actually go and win this one, is unbelievable. I’ve been very fortunate to play in five cup finals with Hibs so to come away with two trophies is something that makes me feel very lucky.”
Although he has helped land two significant prizes in Hibs’ history, Stevenson has also had to endure his fair share of kicks in the teeth, most notably the 5-1 Scottish Cup final defeat by Hearts in 2012 and relegation from the Premiership two years later. Negativity has lingered around the club for much of the last decade. However, Stevenson believes that winning a trophy they seemed destined never to put their hands on can act as catalyst for Hibs.
“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs during my time at the club, but I think we would have taken every down for the up we got at Hampden on Saturday and then in Edinburgh on Sunday. It really does feel like a massive weight has been removed from our shoulders. Now we can look to the future and get this club back into the top flight.
“I hope we can really kick on, now that we’ve freed ourselves from that baggage. It always felt like a burden, every year people asking us if this was going to be our year. And every year we put a lot into the Scottish Cup. That takes its toll, physically and mentally, but I think we can now go next year and just enjoy it, rather than always having so much pressure on us. The fans are going to be right behind us now that we’ve delivered something they’ve been wanting for so long, 114 years.
“We’ve been saying all season that we’ve got a strong group of boys. We’ve been labelled bottlers a few times but we knew that wasn’t the case. You have to get to the finals to be called a bottler – and we kept getting there, just falling at the last hurdle. That’s not to do with bottle, that’s sometimes just luck.”
Stevenson tried to sample every minute of Sunday’s open-top bus parade from the city centre to Leith Links as fans flocked in their thousands to hail their history-making heroes. “I tried just to sit back and take Sunday in,” said the left-back. “It obviously doesn’t come around very often!
“It’s something that not many people will experience in their life, a parade like that, so it is something I will remember forever.”
Stevenson has been involved with the Hibs first team for more than a decade and, although he is now 28, he intends to remain at Easter Road a good while longer. The prospect of finishing his career as a one-club man excites him. “I would love to do that,” he said. “But I know that Hibs is a big club and I need to keep performing. You’ve got to keep in the manager’s plans and perform well, keep your form up or someone will be there to take your place.”
Stevenson was thrilled to see his fellow full-back David Gray emerge as the cup-winning hero after his stoppage-time header floored Rangers. “You couldn’t have picked a better player to score the winner, and you couldn’t have written a better ending than to have the captain score with a header so late in the game,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m delighted for him as a great captain, a great boy and a top player. I’m sure he’ll go down in Hibernian folklore for another hundred years.”
David Moyes this week told the Evening News that Alan Stubbs should remain at Easter Road and Stevenson is hopeful that the highly-regarded head coach will heed the advice of the former Everton and Manchester United manager.
“The manager’s been amazing,” said Stevenson. “Amazing for me, amazing for the team – and I’m sure all the fans think the same, especially now. To win a Scottish Cup as Hibs manager is something that will go down in history. He will be remembered forever here and quite rightly so.
“He has played a big part in my career over the couple of seasons he’s been here. I’ve enjoyed my football more than at any other stage in my life. Hopefully he will stay at Hibs for as long as possible after this success.
“I think we need continuity now – it would be nice to have a gaffer for more than two years because I think the manager now must be the longest serving I’ve had in all my time at the club. I would love him to stay for another few years and get us up where we belong.
“He’s been brilliant for me, brilliant for the team. Even the football we play, it’s been a lot easier on the eye than we had been before he came. I remember when he first came in, we had about eight players at the time, so it was strange.
“I think he wondered what he’d signed up for when he saw eight of us jogging out for training. He has done a massive job to rebuild the squad and bring back the positivity, and he’s brought back the fans’ love for Hibs.
“We need to try to ride that wave of positivity as far and high as we can. We’re going to have European games next year, it’s going to be an exciting start to the season so we have to carry that right through the season. We know what it takes in the Championship by now, so we’ll be ready to go and hopefully miss the play-offs this year by winning the title.”
Stevenson believes last Saturday’s triumph salvaged a campaign which had once promised plenty but was in danger of ending up in disappointment following failed bids to win the League Cup and promotion.
“After the season we’ve had, it would have been a travesty for us to come away with nothing,” he said. “I still feel that, ultimately, we failed in the league this year by not getting promotion, but we came pretty close, considering we were fighting on three fronts, reaching the League Cup final and winning the Scottish Cup. Overall I think it’s been a pretty successful season.”