Exclusive: Hibs boss on departure of Scottish Cup legends

Paul Hanlon, left, and Lewis Stevenson have played more than 1100 games combined for the Easter Road club.Paul Hanlon, left, and Lewis Stevenson have played more than 1100 games combined for the Easter Road club.
Paul Hanlon, left, and Lewis Stevenson have played more than 1100 games combined for the Easter Road club.
Hanlon and Stevenson hailed as ultimate professionals

Hibs boss Nick Montgomery has opened up on the decision to let club legends Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson leave Easter Road. And he’s backed both defenders to carry on contributing – as players AND future coaches – despite calling time on their Hibs careers.

It was announced yesterday that both club captain Hanlon and fellow Scottish Cup winner Stevenson would be leaving at the end of the season. A special farewell is planned at Easter Road following next Wednesday night’s final home game of the season, against Motherwell.

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Montgomery, who replaced axed gaffer Lee Johnson in September, has used both players sparingly. Despite agreeing that the time has come for the pair to move on after a combined run of over 1100 games, he understands why Stevenson and Hanlon are already fielding offers from Scottish Premiership rivals.

Monty said: “They’ve just been two unbelievable servants to the club for a long time. We’ve had discussions throughout the season, and it was a joint decision, between the players and the club. They know, and the club know, that it’s time for them to move on to the next chapter, whatever that may be.

“They can both carry on playing, down the line they might see coaching as a way forward. Whatever they do, they’ll bring quality to the job. I’ve got nothing but respect for them as ultimate professionals, certainly in my time at the club.

“It’s been a special journey for both of them, with ups and downs. But that’s football.

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“They look after themselves, they’re great examples to anybody on the benefits of working hard and sustaining a long career. Anyone who has a long career will tell you that it’s all the small things – not just training hard but eating properly and sleeping well – that can make the difference.

“That’s what make these guys top pros. They’ve looked after themselves to play as long as possible. There is no doubt that they can carry on playing if that’s what they decide.”

Montgomery appreciated the help he got from skipper Hanlon and all-time great Stevenson, the most decorated player in Hibs history, on his arrival at a club stuck at the wrong end of the Scottish Premiership table. Even if he couldn’t always give either of them the game time they still craved.

“I think you handle it with honesty,” said the Yorkshireman, when asked about the situation he inherited. “It helps that you’re talking about two really honest players, as well. But you handle the situation.  It’s gradually been going on since the start of the season.

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“I hope we’ve treated them with respect and, in a decision reached between the club and the players, it’s really been nothing but amicable. As a human being, I wish them well moving forward. As a club, you’ve seen the outpouring of affection and appreciation for what they’ve done, the sacrifices they’ve made for this club.

“When you inherit squad, you find players in all sorts of different situations. That happened when I arrived. I had to think about what the future would look like. Every club goes through these transitions. Some clubs just have more of a transition than others.”