Dirk Lehmann speaks on still playing at 51 and iconic plasters as former Hibs striker looks forward to Easter Road return

“I’ve lost five or six kilos,” former Hibs striker Dirk Lehmann proclaims proudly, as he details his training regime to prepare for the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation charity match at Easter Road.

The 51-year-old has been out running a couple of times ahead of the weekend, plays tennis in his spare time, and hasn’t hung up his boots just yet. His opponents could be in for a tough 90 minutes when a Franck Sauzée Select takes on a Hanlon-Stevenson XI.

"I’m fit for my age, I think. I guess you could say I’ve done my pre-season training,” Lehmann tells the Evening News in an exclusive interview. “When I play I always want to win and I want to give my very best. I hope I’ll be fit enough to get on the end of any crosses. I’m not sure if I’ll be playing as a striker or defender; hopefully striker but it depends on the attacking side of the opposition as well. If they have an aerial threat then maybe I’ll be asked to play centre-half.”

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Lehmann is one of several former Hibees returning to the holy ground on Sunday and has been touched by the number of tickets already snapped up for the event, despite Sauzée’s enforced absence on health grounds.

"It seems like a lot of people have already bought tickets. One of my very good friends is German, he lives in Motherwell and is coming but he told me a lot of people are going. You wouldn’t get that in Germany. What Graeme [Cadger, Hanlon Stevenson Foundation chair] has organised is brilliant, just fantastic.”

The German forward, who scored 13 goals in 71 games for Hibs, has been back to Edinburgh since his time at the club at the turn of the Millennium and always enjoys his trips to the Capital.

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"I’m very much looking forward to coming back to Easter Road and it will be nice to see all the old boys again and have a chat and a beer after the game,” Lehmann says. “It will be fun and being at Easter Road is always a highlight. I’ve been back a few times – I was in Edinburgh for Franck’s dinner earlier this year, and a couple of times before that, a few years ago, when I was doing my coaching badges. During the Covid-19 pandemic the courses were all online so I didn’t need to come back. But it’s changed a lot! The trams weren’t there when I was living in Edinburgh so that was nice to see. It’s very different these days.”

Lehmann enjoyed meeting up again with his former Easter Road colleagues at the Sauzée dinner, also organised by the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation, and is looking forward to catching up again this weekend.

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Dirk Lehmann shows off the new Hibs away kit at Easter Road in 1999. Picture: TSPL

"We have a group chat but because I’m in Germany and most of the others are in Scotland it’s hard to keep in regular touch, especially with us all doing different jobs,” he explains. “But we still write sometimes, and it was great to see John O’Neil, Yogi [John Hughes], Archie [Stuart Lovell], and Ian Murray at the dinner. I’m looking forward to seeing them again this weekend. It was a great night for Franck, and I’m really thankful to be able to meet up with them once more and play at Easter Road again.”

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Lehmann is still playing the odd game; not as much as he was during his professional career, but until fairly recently he was turning out as a player-coach for Sportfreunde Düren in Germany’s sixth tier – not that he planned it that way.“It was entirely coincidental! There was a fight at the club and a lot of people left, so there weren’t enough players available. I was the coach but they asked me if I could play; I was 45 and hadn’t played for a few years so it was a bit difficult. The sixth division is still a pretty high standard. It was fun but I’d rather focus on coaching. I’m trying not to play too much, although I do play with the Alemannia Aachen old boys and last year, I got invited to play for 1. FC Köln old boys in a tournament.”

Football was very much a family affair for Lehmann at Düren, Borussia Freialdenhoven and Alemannia Bourheim, with son Dennis part of the playing squad, although Lehmann senior was usually found in a more defensive role compared to his boy.

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"We played together at Freialdenhoven, when I was a player-coach at the start of my coaching career. It was fun but obviously he didn’t like it because I was really harsh on him sometimes. Not because he was my son, but because when someone isn’t performing well you need to go after them and tell them what they’re doing wrong. So I did!”

Lehmann, front left, at the Sauzée gala dinner in April
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Lehmann has returned to former club Alemannia Aachen, where he coaches the under-17s – “it’s more or less five times a week so it’s a lot on top of my day job” – but when he’s not coaching the Aachen youngsters he works as a Production Planner for a big plastics factory. His football career has been an indirect benefit, with spells in Belgium with Lierse S.K. and R.W.D. Molenbeek and in the UK with Brighton, Hibs, Fulham, and Motherwell allowing him to pick up an extra couple of languages on top of his mother tongue.

But the burning question is whether or not Dirk will be wearing the trademark white plasters to protect his earrings when he takes to the Easter Road pitch. Can fans expect a throwback when Lehmann takes to the pitch on Sunday?

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"I hadn’t actually considered that,” he laughs. “I don’t like taking the earrings out so the referee asks me to cover them. I’m not sure what the rules are in a friendly game, but my earrings are definitely still my good-luck charm. I might have to wear the plasters.”

• Tickets are still available for the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation Hibernian Family Reunion match on Sunday November 20 from £5, available from the club website: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/hibernianfc/Events/Index

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The curtains have gone and the earrings are fewer, but Lehmann is chuffed to be returning to Easter Road. Picture: TSPL

Fans can also take part in The Match Auction, with a host of prizes up for grabs including dinner for 10 with Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson, Franck Sauzee memorabilia, and VIP tickets to a Lewis Capaldi concert, with all funds raised going to the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation. Bids can be placed at: https://www.jumblebee.co.uk/thematch

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Lehmann celebrates his goal in the 5-1 victory over Dundee at Easter Road in August 2000