Former Hibs great believes team is "back where it should be" amid Easter Road dream

Hibs’ most decorated player Laura Kennedy believes the team is “back where they should be” as she hopes to fulfill childhood dream of playing at Easter Road on Sunday.

Laura Kennedy (now known as Laura Houston), won numerous trophies throughout her career at Hibs including three league titles, five Scottish Cups and three league cups. For her success at the club, she became the first women to be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame earlier this year. As Hibs have now reached their first final since 2019, Houston believes the club is back on track to win trophies.

“When I was playing the ladies’ team was dominating but there has been a huge change since then with a lot of players moving down south,” she explained to Edinburgh Evening News. “It has taken Hibs a bit of time to get the platform where they are able to recruit players of that calibre at the level they should be. They are now starting to compete with clubs like Glasgow City, Rangers and Celtic again.

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“They have certainly had a few bad results but to get to a cup final is where they should be. The players know that, definitely the ones that have been there many years. They should be competing for trophies, the drive for that has always been there, a lot of change has just happened at the club.

Laura Kennedy hopes that the upcoming cup final can raise the profile of the club

"I think the backing of the club and just having the consistency of the players and them all training together you can see what they can do. Becoming professional this year has helped them get to the cup final for the first time in a couple of seasons. That will certainly help boost their profile, even if it is to attract players for the following season as I think they have struggled with that gap, just not being consistent the last couple of seasons so it will certainly help them moving forward.”

Starting off, Houston was a member of the first ever Hibs Women team after they changed their name from Preston Athletic in 1999. During her 20-year career at the club in which she also had a spell as captain, Houston also made three appearances in the Champions League to add to her list of achievements. Looking at the investment the club is putting into women’s football now, she now hopes that Hibs can breach the gap of the top three teams in the SWPL.

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“It has taken time to get to the level that the girls should be awarded,” she said. “I think the investment the club have given to the ladies, especially the backing over the last couple of years has been exceptional. I think the offering of free tickets to get in games recently is excelling and to perhaps catch the gap of the other clubs who have maybe gone a bit further in their investment. The women’s game is certainly moving on and the club had to do something otherwise it would be left behind the other clubs that are investing.”

With the upcoming ‘Le Match’ game on Sunday, Frank Sauzee will return to Easter Road to lead a charity game for the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation. Houston, who has never played at Easter Road, says it would fulfil a “childhood dream” to play at the stadium for the first time but admits that she is “pretty nervous”.

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“I’ve never played at Easter Road this is actually my first time, this opportunity has been given to me by the foundation,” she explained. “I think mostly because of my induction into the Hall of Fame, I know that we've become more of a name and that people maybe ask more about the charity work. It’s obviously a childhood dream to play there for myself and my family; I never thought it would happen. It’s a huge opportunity for me and being at Easter Road is extra special. I’m pretty nervous to be honest.”

The Hanlon Stevenson Foundation is dedicated to primarily helping young people, with a view to assisting less privileged children. The organisation is self-funded, and all monies received will be donated to selected charities and other projects.

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The upcoming Edinburgh Derby at Easter Road is also being used to help the less fortunate with free tickets being made available for the game. Offers of kiosk vouchers for families whose financial circumstances would otherwise prevent them from buying half time snacks have also been made available. Houston hopes that this gives some people the opportunity to watch a game who might not usually be able to go.

“It gives the opportunity to girls and other clubs who do not get a lot of funding like the boys do,” she stated. “There is still a gap to be filled there, last time it was very successful. By doing this it allows girls who maybe can’t afford to go to games to go. It was very much a mixed crowd before. I certainly think by doing this they are offering the opportunity to families who can’t usually make it. The free tickets that have gone so far are more than usual, so it is good to see that the community is being rewarded for the game coming up.”

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

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