Lewis Stevenson well-versed on how to deal with new Hibs boss

Lewis Stevenson, centre, applauds the Hibs fans after the victory over Falkirk. Pic: SNS

Lewis Stevenson, centre, applauds the Hibs fans after the victory over Falkirk. Pic: SNS

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For someone who is starting his 12th season at Easter Road, the club’s longest serving player and one who will make his 325th appearance in a green and white shirt tomorrow, you’d expect Lewis Stevenson to be somewhat relaxed as he finds himself playing under his ninth manager.

But as established as the little defender may appear to be, he’s adamant he has as much to prove to new boss Neil Lennon as any youngster hoping to break through into the first team.

It’s become a regular occurrence for Stevenson who began his career under Tony Mowbray and can list John Collins, John Hughes, Mixu Paatelainen, Colin Calderwood, Pat Fenlon, Terry Butcher and Alan Stubbs – plus a couple of caretakers along the way – that he’s seen come and go over the years.

Even so, he admitted, it’s something he believes he will never quite manage to take in his stride.

“I don’t think it matters if you are a young boy who has yet to play a game or someone like myself,” he reasons, “You have to start afresh and prove yourself.

“Bosses change in every walk of life but probably not as much as in football. It’s part and parcel of the game.

“I hadn’t really thought of 
the new manager being my ninth, I didn’t think of it that way. But you do know that a new manager might not like you, you might not fit his style of play.

“So it is the same every time, it doesn’t get any easier. I’ve maybe learned not to panic when it happens, but it’s not easy.”

It’s been a case of so far, so good for Stevenson having played in every competitive match since Lennon took over from Stubbs but, he insisted, that doesn’t mean he’s taking anything for granted.

He said: “The gaffer was a top player and he’s a top manager. I was a bit surprised when he got the job, but the board have done brilliantly to get him here.

“He’s a massive name, not just in Scotland but Britain. I played against him a couple of times when he was at Celtic but I don’t know what impression I made on him – Scotty Brown was probably the one he’d remember most from those games.

“He’s been there and done it both as a player and a manger so hopefully that can help us. I’m enjoying it, but I know you have to be on your toes all the time, to be focused and ensure you don’t drop your standards.

“Everyone is fighting to impress, to get into his plans and we all know that if we don’t perform there’s people ready to take your place.”

However, after that disappointing defeat by Queen of the South which ended Hibs’ interest in the Betfred Cup, Stevenson admitted he and his team-mates must look to atone for that result when they face Championship newcomers Dunfermline tomorrow in their first league game of the season at Easter Road.

The 28-year-old said: “We let ourselves down, so we knew what to expect from the manager. I felt we did enough to win, we had a few chances and could have been at least a couple up and it would have been an entirely different game.

“But we can’t dwell on it. We’ve had a good clear-the-air meeting. What was said in the changing room stays there, but it’s fair enough to say the manager wasn’t happy.

“But we weren’t happy either and we want to make amends. We had a good win away to Falkirk last week, that was a tough test for the opening day of the season but now we have to be looking to get another win.”

Stevenson now lives in Dunfermline although, having been born in Kirkcaldy, there’s no way he’d ever describe himself as “a Dunfermline boy”, saying: “I’d get a bit of stick back home if I was to say that.

Stevenson, however, is anticipating a tough match against Allan Johnston’s side, the Pars having marked their step-up to the Championship with an impressive win over Dumbarton.

Recalling a pre-season 
friendly at East End Park last summer which Hibs won 2-1, modesty preventing Stevenson from pointing out that along with Scott Allan he was a goalscorer that day, Stevenson said: “I thought they were a good team then, better than League One.

“They’ll be on a high having won the league last season and I’m sure they’ll have come up looking to finish in the top four.

“Dumfermline are a big club, although I’d say we are a bigger club. But it doesn’t matter the size of the club, it’s what the team does on the pitch.”

The expectation heaped on Lennon’s players has been underlined by Hibs revealing they’ve sold 10,762 season tickets – their second highest ever total.

Stevenson said: “The fans give us tremendous backing and they might just be the difference in us getting over the finishing line. We’ve been close the past two seasons, but this time we are determined to win promotion.”

Tomorrow will see Stevenson draw level with Jimmy O’Rourke and Davie Shaw in terms of appearances – joint 21st in the all-time rankings for Hibs – but he insisted: “I don’t really look at the games mounting up, I just want to keep playing as many as I can.”