You can take the boy out of Kirkcaldy but, it seems, you can’t take Raith out of the boy.
Although he’s Hibs’ longest-serving player, Lewis Stevenson admits he finds it hard to hide his roots, belting out the Rovers anthem “Geordie Munro” to his bemused Easter Road team-mates during a sing-song at their pre-season training camp in Spain.
Given that he was born and brought up in the Fife town, to find Stevenson was a regular at Stark’s Park as a kid is hardly surprising, his happiest memory of those days being the 1994-95 Coca-Cola Cup triumph over Celtic while his school Balwearie High sits just across the railway track from Rovers’ ground.
But while his wife Julia and all her family remain Raith fans, 26-year-old Stevenson is now firmly a Hibs supporter, one who has clocked up more than 200 appearances in a green-and-white shirt and he will treat today’s Scottish Cup clash against his boyhood heroes as “just another game.”
He said: “I used to go to a few of Raith’s games, my school was just at the back of the stadium and we used to get tickets through that. I was at the cup final when they beat Celtic in 1994, that was a good Rovers team and Scott Thomson, our goalkeeping coach at Hibs now, played for them that day.
“I was only six at the time so I only vaguely remember it all but I still look out for their results.”
If Stevenson’s memories of that epic day at Ibrox as Raith beat Celtic 6-5 on penalties are somewhat lost in the mists of time, he revealed he has a better grasp, if only just, of the Fife club’s anthem.
He said: “We had to sing a song in front of everyone else during pre-season in Spain last summer. A few of the boys before me had got up and sung football songs and Geordie Munro was the only one I roughly knew the words to so I had to go for it.
“I used to know all the words but I think I only managed the first verse. It was the only one I could think of at the time, it was the only one I could roughly remember the words to. But it wasn’t the worst, there were a few worse than me.”
While he happily recalls his days as a youngster in Kirkcaldy, Stevenson insisted there’s no chance of even a hint of split-loyalty today even if his in-laws remain fervent Rovers’ fans, the jack-of-all-trades even adamant his wife will switch allegiances for the day.
He said: “I’m a Hibs fan now. All of my missus’ family are Rovers’ fans and they all go to the games. But I’m sure she’ll be supporting Hibs.
“I’ll just treat this as another game at the end of the day. I know it is the Scottish Cup which is an important thing for us, but as soon as the game starts it’s just another game, you are playing against an opposition you need to be better than on the day.”
If Stevenson’s loyalty won’t be put to the test, he admitted he feels more than a degree of sympathy for Callum Booth who will line up for Grant Murray’s side despite only being on loan to Raith from Hibs for the season, the rule forbidding players in such a position from facing their “parent club” not applying to the Scottish Cup.
He said: “I was surprised when I heard he was going to be playing. Callum’s a top player and I’m sure he still has a big future at Hibs. I genuinely believe he can still go on and do big things in the game. I was disappointed to hear he could play against us, but he’s contracted to Rovers just now and he has to give his all for them. I wish him all the best.”
Stevenson, though, insisted he was more concerned for the well-being of Terry Butcher’s side who go into the match as favourites against the Championship side having conceded seven goals in defeats to St Mirren and Celtic. However, despite what, on the face of it, was a 4-0 hammering from the Scottish Premiership champions, Stevenson argued that he and his team-mates had taken confidence from their performance a fortnight ago.
Victory would propel Hibs into the quarter-finals, only two steps away from a unprecedented third successive Scottish Cup final for a club battling to lift the trophy for the first time since 1902.
Stevenson said: “The results haven’t been great, but I think we can take a bit of heart from the Celtic game. At 1-0 we troubled Celtic as much as they have been troubled over the last few weeks. We were chasing the game and they basically scored a great free-kick out of nothing.
“It was disappointing from there on in but we can take a lot out of the game. We don’t want to slip into a bad run, we want to kick-start and give the fans something to cheer about. We know how important the cup is to them.
“In the past two years we have gone on two great runs and we’d love to keep that going this year.”