Hibs out to repay Neil Lennon for giving them Christmas Day off

Lewis Stevenson is eyeing a victory over Ross County today to justify Neil Lennon's decision to give his Hibs players two days off over Christmas.

Saturday, 23rd December 2017, 5:30 am
Lewis Stevenson and his Hibs team-mates have been given Christmas Day off by their head coach Neil Lennon. Pic: SNS

The manager will allow his squad Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with their families before they return to East Mains on Boxing Day to prepare for the Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle the following night.

The players are grateful for this rare chance to have Christmas Day off and intent on repaying Lennon. “It’s nice,” said Stevenson. “We’ve had a hard run of games, nearly halfway into the season and we’ve put a lot in already. Sometimes you need a bit of rest and recuperation.

“And seeing each other ten days’ straight, you sometimes need a break from the boys, as well. There’s only so much John McGinn you can take!

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“Look, we appreciate the time off – but we need to put a performance in to deserve it, because I’m sure it could change if we don’t. It’s special spending time with the family. There have been a few Christmases that have been a write-off because of games. Sometimes footballers miss out because it’s such a hectic schedule. It’s going to be great having a Christmas in the house.”

Stevenson, renowned for his professionalism, insists no liberties will be taken with regard to food and drink over the next couple of days. “I’ll still eat healthy because we have a massive game, probably the biggest game of the season, coming up right after it,” he said. “I’ll still have to stock up on chicken and pasta, all that kind of stuff. Just to be round the family will be nice. It sometimes clears your head, a bit of escapism to football.”

Only a Hibs win today will guarantee a happy Christmas for the Stevenson household. The left-back admits he takes the pain of defeats - like last weekend’s 4-1 thrashing at Aberdeen - home with him. “My mood is really affected by the results,” he said. “My wife gets the brunt of it. She looks for the results more than I do on a Saturday, because it does affect me not just for the day after but the whole week. It’s mad how much results can affect your life.”

The 4-1 defeat at Aberdeen last weekend has been niggling at Stevenson this week. Lennon said on Wednesday that he went too far with his post-match criticism of the team, but Stevenson insists the manager should have no regrets about letting rip.

“He said he was hard on us but frankly we deserved it, it was our poorest performance since he has been manager and I had that suspicion walking in after the game that there would be a backlash, even at half-time - which we got,” said Stevenson.

“He was seething. The trip back home was tough. The gaffer was watching the game again on a lap top and I’m not that far from him on the bus. I was slumping down as far as possible on my seat to try and stay out of eye contact. He had that angry look when he was watching it, quite rightly because it was our poorest performance.

“He’s a passionate man and passionate about his job, he loves his team to bits and wants us to do well. It’s the mark of a great manager, you would rather that than somebody who didn’t care and went home on the bus and listened to music. We don’t want to put in performances like that, we know the time and money spent by fans, especially going up there. Our performance was terrible and I don’t think anyone got pass marks. We have a few wrongs that we need to make right.”

After three games without a win, Stevenson is intent on making sure Hibs finish with a flourish ahead of the winter break. After the games against County and Hearts, they host Kilmarnock next Saturday. “We’ve got three massive games that if we can go on and get a good run of form then we’ll finish the league in a decent position,” said Stevenson. “People have been saying we’re in a sticky patch, but the performances have been good apart from the Aberdeen game. We’re still pretty confident that we can win these next three games.”