Stevenson admits he still feels big-game nerves

Lewis Stevenson's strike against Berwick was voted Goal of the Round
Lewis Stevenson's strike against Berwick was voted Goal of the Round
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LEWIS STEVENSON may have just played his 261st game for Hibs, but he admits he gets just as nervous before games now as he did as a 19-year-old rookie.

And the left-back disclosed in an interview with the Evening News today that those nerves are already starting to jangle ahead of Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final showdown with Falkirk.

That might surprise some Hibs followers given the magnitude of many of the games he has been involved in during his ten-year stint with the Easter Road side.

You might think his heroics, for example, in the 2007 CIS Cup triumph over Kilmarnock where he was named man of the match, would surely alleviate any apprehension he holds ahead of this weekend’s return to Hampden.

But for Stevenson, that is not the case.

The 27-year-old has only played in one of Hibs’ three Scottish Cup semi-final appearances during his time with the club and that was eight years ago when then manager John Collins guided Hibs to the last four before being knocked out by a late Jim McIntyre penalty for Dunfermline after the tie had gone to a replay.

“I’m as nervous now before a game as I was when I was 19, which is strange when you think about it,” revealed Stevenson, who has made 38 appearances this season.

“I missed the last Falkirk semi-final two years ago as I was on the bench and was suspended against Aberdeen the year before. And, if I am being completely honest, I can barely remember the two games against Dunfermline so in a way it’s going to be quite new for me.

“I’m looking forward to it, though, as it’s not often you get to play at Hampden so we need to make the most of it.”

The Kirkcaldy-born midfielder has experienced both the highs and lows during his time in Leith, from celebrating Hibs’ first major trophy win in 16 years, to feeling the agony of last season’s relegation to the Championship.

And, having been rejuvenated under a new management team led by Alan Stubbs this term, Stevenson is adamant that helping Hibs to a first Scottish Cup success in 113 years, coupled with an immediate return to the top flight via the end-of-season play-offs, would make his tenth year at the club an unforgettable one.

“To do that would be by far my best achievement – especially after the long season we’ve had, and one we were dreading after what happened last year,” he said.

“If we could go out on a double high like that then it would just be amazing.

“I don’t even want to think about how good that would be because I also know just how bad it could turn out as well.

“There’s still a long way to go so we just need to try and focus on each game.

“It’s a semi-final against Falkirk so anything can happen. We just need to start the game well because we’ve not managed to beat Falkirk yet this season despite playing quite well against them. We need to right some wrongs there but, if we can play to our best ability, then I’m sure we’ll have a great chance of making it through to the final next month.”

One accolade that Stevenson could not have imagined coming his way was being the recipient of the William Hill Goal of the Round award for his strike against Berwick Rangers in last month’s quarter-final tie at Easter Road.

However, Stevenson has found himself in a much more advanced role this season, having been deployed in the left wing-back position. He has found the net on three occasions so far, having only scored twice before in his entire career.

“To be fair, I was on a wee bit of roll at the time, although they’ve dried up recently,” he joked.

“I’ve not really seen all of the goals up for the award but I’m sure there were other worthy candidates. It’s nice to get it, though. It was a great ball through from Dom [Dominique Malonga] and, although I’ve got a lucky ricochet in the build-up, I’ve used my striker’s instinct and put it away!

“It came at a crucial time for us because it settled us down and made it 2-0 so that was important. But the gaffer encourages us to go forward and try and help out the more attack-minded players. David [Gray] has also scored a few as well on the other side so even though we’re largely defenders, we’re encouraged to go forward and get involved in the play.

“Before the new management team came in, I was barely ever getting over the halfway line.

“I’m really enjoying my football and I think that has shown in my play this season. I have enjoyed scoring some goals as it’s not something I am used to so hopefully I can keep that going forward.”