It will come as no surprise to learn that Stark’s Park has loomed large in the life of Kirkcaldy-born Lewis Stevenson.
As a pupil at the nearby Balwearie High School he’d gaze on the home of his local side Raith Rovers from the classroom on the other side of that railway track that skirts the ground.
And after joining Hibs as a youth player he’d look down on it from the train every day as he passed by on his way to Edinburgh.
But as he enters his tenth year as a professional player with the Capital club, Stevenson will, incredibly, play his first competitive match on his “home” turf on Saturday.
In doing so, Hibs’ longest serving player will take another step towards his 250th game for the club and becoming only the 57th player in its 139-year history to pass that landmark.
At present, Stevenson stands on 241 games, stretching back to his debut game under Tony Mowbray when he faced Ayr United in the League Cup, the ensuing years seeing him persuade a further seven managers – John Collins, Mixu Paatelainen, John Hughes, Colin Calderwood, Pat Fenlon, Terry Butcher and now Alan Stubbs – of his worth.
Even so, Stevenson admits he can barely believe how he has withstood the test of time, saying: “It would be brilliant to play 250 games for Hibs – I’d never have thought that ten years ago. I’m sure there are many better players than me who didn’t reach that milestone, so when it comes it will be an honour to join such a select group of players.”
While aware of the notable achievement which is within his grasp Stevenson, nevertheless, insisted no game was more important than Saturday’s clash in Fife when Stubbs’ players will be, despite an impressive run of form recently, looking to put back-to-back league wins together for the first time this season.
And although Grant Murray’s side have lost their last three Championship matches Stevenson, mindful of how Raith battled back to gain a point at Easter Road earlier in the season thanks to a strike from former Hearts hitman Christian Nade, was predicting nothing less than another tough match.
He said: “It was disappointing to lose that game having taken the lead but to be fair to them they were the better team in the second half.
“They’ve been struggling a bit recently in the league but I think they are a good team, with a lot of players who have played at a good level, and I’m sure that when they pick up they’ll be thinking they can chase a play-off place.”
With the halfway point in the campaign fast approaching the fact so few teams seem off the pace in the race for a top-four finish at the minimum does, Stevenson insisted, demonstrate the competitive nature of the Championship.
Capital rivals Hearts are, of course, setting the pace and then some at the top of the table but, as impressive as their results have been, the Jambos have encountered one or two close-run things along the way.
Stevenson said: “It’s a tough league, anyone can beat anyone else so it’s hard to judge form. It’s hard to get on a run. Queen of the South are doing well at the moment while Falkirk have picked up a bit.
“As far as we are concerned it was good to bounce back from that defeat by Falkirk with a win against Alloa. It was a good professional job – perhaps not as eye-catching as some of our previous performances but the most important thing was the three points.
“The good thing, I think, is we’ve shown we can mix it up, that while we can play when the opportunity arises, we are also capable of grinding out results. It will be the same on Saturday, we’d like to win with a performance but first and foremost we’ll take the three points however we get them.
“As I’ve said, I expect it to be another hard game but our away form has been good – only that blip at Falkirk – in the past few months.
“It’s hard to break teams down when they come to Easter Road intent on defending but I think the onus is on the home team a bit more to play attacking football and that helps us as it creates more space and we have the players who can exploit those situations.”
As you would expect Stevenson will have a few old mates at Saturday’s match cheering on Raith but, he revealed, he’ll have his own fan club at Stark’s Park, his in-laws who, he hopes, he has converted to Hibs supporters.
He said: “I think most of my wife Julia’s family were Raith fans and while they still go to some of their matches I think they are now really Hibs supporters and will be backing me.
“It’s a game I’m looking forward to for obvious reasons. I’ve played a couple of pre-season friendlies at Stark’s Park but this is the real thing, my first competitive game there.
“I could see the back of the stadium from my classroom at Balwearie High and then when I’d joined Hibs as a youth player I’d pass the ground on the train every day on my way to Easter Road.
“I suppose a lot of the boys I went to school with probably dreamt of playing there for their local club one day and still go along as fans but I’ve been with Hibs so long now.
“If someone had said to me when I was leaving school I’d have been here for so long I’d have bitten their hand off.
“Hibs have been a massive part of my life but to stay at a club like this you need to perform. I know I have to perform every week because Callum Booth is ready and willing to take my place at left back if my form does dip.
“But hopefully I can continue performing as well as I can and try to earn a new contract.”