Guillaume Beuzelin recalls Hibs' CIS Cup triumph ten years on
Amid the ongoing revelry of the past 10 months, it would be easy to forget that Hibs did actually win trophies prior to last season's historic Scottish Cup triumph.
And they occasionally did so in pretty emphatic fashion, too. Saturday marks the tenth anniversary of the day John Collins’ team defeated Jim Jefferies’ Kilmarnock side 5-1 to win the 2007 League Cup. Until last May, it stood as the club’s only major trophy win in almost quarter of a century.
The Scottish Cup victory may have had the effect of seemingly overshadowing everything else that has gone before for Hibs, but the pride of that League Cup triumph remains undiminished for those involved.
“Even though it’s ten years, everything is still there in my mind,” said Guillaume Beuzelin of his crowning moment in football. “I can’t believe it’s been ten years. That was the highlight of my career without a doubt. My debut for my hometown team [Le Havre] in France and my first season at Hibs were pretty special. I also had an FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea [for Coventry City], which was good. But to win a national cup, you can’t beat that. To play for a cup in the national stadium in front of so many fans is what you dream of as a kid. Everyone wants to play in that sort of occasion. It was my first and last final so I enjoyed it very much. I was at a stage in my career where I was able to appreciate how big it was.”
At 27, Beuzelin, a cultured French midfielder, was the old head of a bright young Hibs team which was in the process of breaking up and mainly heading for more illustrious pastures. Although highly-regarded homegrown players like Ian Murray, Garry O’Connor, Derek Riordan and Kevin Thomson, along with Gary Caldwell, had already moved on, Collins was still able to select three members of the much-vaunted golden generation against Kilmarnock in the shape of Scott Brown, Steven Whittaker and Steven Fletcher. Brown and Whittaker would leave the club just a few months later, meaning the Hampden obliteration of Kilmarnock effectively acted as the grand finale for a team which had provided so much excitement to Hibs supporters under previous manager Tony Mowbray for a few years in the mid-Noughties
“We had been in a few Scottish Cup semi-finals but that was the only final we made with that team,” said Beuzelin. “It would have been a shame if the club never won anything with that generation of players. From the moment I arrived at the club, I saw those boys growing up and then going on to better fortunes afterwards. It’s just a shame the likes of Deeks, Gaz, Thommo and even Ian Murray weren’t still around to win it with their mates because they had all been at the club a long time and left not long before we won it.”
Those who remained at Easter Road would prove more than capable of bringing silverware back to Leith for the first time since the Skol Cup was won almost 16 years previously. Having seen off Peterhead, Gretna, Hearts and St Johnstone on their way to the final, Collins’ team were far too strong for a Kilmarnock side featuring current Hibs coaches Colin Nish and Alan Combe as well as Gary Locke, who would go on to manage Hearts. Rob Jones, the imposing Hibs captain and centre-back, opened the scoring before the break and second-half doubles from strikers Fletcher and Abdessalam “Benji” Benjelloun ensured Gordon Greer’s goal for Killie was nothing more than a consolation. Aside from the emphatic nature of the victory, the final was memorable for a man-of-the-match performance from Lewis Stevenson, the 19-year-old rookie in midfield.
“We had a lot of confidence going into that game because we knew we had a great team,” recalls Beuzelin. “We had everything a good team needs. We had a big dominant centre-half, two offensive full-backs [Whittaker and David Murphy], Fletch, who was good in the air, Ivan [Sproule], who was quick, and Benji, who was a goal-scorer. On top of that, you had myself alongside Scott Brown and Lewis Stevenson, who were running machines in midfield. Everything was there for us to win that game.
“The fact we won it in style made it even better. We played really well. We were 1-0 up at half-time and we felt it was just a matter of time before we got the second because we were playing well. They got one back to make it 3-1 but we had real confidence and knew we were strong enough to finish the job. I know a few of the Kilmarnock boys like Nishy, Comber and [Jamie] Fowler and they knew they didn’t deserve anything.”
It was party time at Easter Road later that night as the triumphant Hibs team returned to the stadium, via an open-top bus from Edinburgh city centre, to be greeted by their jubilant supporters. “The celebrations were great,” said Beuzelin. “We had the open-top bus and then we went back to the stadium to see the fans. We had a party at the stadium. It was great that we had the bus parade on the night of the game because everyone was still on a high.”
The League Cup triumph left Hibs on course for a historic double. A Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Dunfermline Athletic just three weeks later, however, killed off this dream. “The only regret I have is that we didn’t win the Scottish Cup as well because I think we had a team good enough to do the double that season,” said Beuzelin. “Everybody knows how special the Scottish Cup is to Hibs. They have won it now but I regret that we weren’t able to do the double that year because we had a great chance.”
Stevenson was the only 2007 League Cup winner who remained at Hibs long enough to be part of last season’s historic Scottish Cup triumph. A decade on from the moment he announced himself on the scene, the 29-year-old, now playing at left-back, finds himself in contention for a third major trophy at Hibs as they stand potentially just 180 minutes away from defending the silverware they won last season. “He’s a special boy,” said Beuzelin. “He’s been there a long time, had his testimonial and is the only player in Hibs’ history to win the two cups. It would be amazing if he could get another one this season. The fans are singing ‘two in a row’, so why not?”