'He still has plenty left in the tank' - Paul Hanlon hails record-breaking Hibs pal Lewis Stevenson
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Firm friends off the pitch and long-time colleagues on it, in recent seasons they have also been spearheading their eponymous charity, the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation, that helps less privileged youngsters.
Now 35, the slightly older Stevenson will break another Hibee landmark this weekend if he features against St Mirren in Paisley this afternoon – the most league appearances for the club, overtaking Arthur Duncan on 449. The 33-year-old Hanlon – 418 league appearances and counting – remains slightly in awe of his team-mate, who has been rolling back the years this season.
“It’s an incredible achievement. He still has plenty left in the tank as well. He’s not showing any signs of slowing down, he trains every day, doesn’t ever moan about being sore – I’m walking about struggling,” Hanlon laughs as he speaks about his fellow Easter Road stalwart.
“He’s so fit and still doing well week in, week out. You’re probably better talking to me about his attributes because he’s never going to talk about them! He’s been first class his whole career, it’s nice to see someone like that get the record.”
We might only be halfway through the season but Stevenson has already featured at left-back, left-wingback, right-back, and central midfield. Synonymous with a full-back berth, he nevertheless puts in the same type of rugged performance in the engine room.
“Sometimes you watch him in there and think he could have had a real top career as a centre midfielder,” Hanlon agrees. “He’s aggressive, wins the ball back, plays it forward. At 25, 26 it’s not an issue to move from left-back to centre mid. At 35 it could be, but it’s not for him at all, so fair play to him.”
The pair have shared a dressing room at Hibs since 2008 – a whole fifteen years ago – and have seen highs and lows during that time. Stevenson has been a model of consistency on the pitch, and apparently off it as well.
“Nah, honestly, I would love to tell you something but I literally have nothing. He’s exactly the same. Annoyingly the same,” Hanlon reveals. “I want him to just be a bit different sometimes. He gets his work done, he doesn’t cause any hassle and works as hard as he can. That’s him and he gets the rewards for it. He’s out of contract at the end of the season and hopefully he’ll get himself sorted. I’ll try and catch the appearances up but I think it will be a tough task, to be honest.”
It’s quite something to consider the players Stevenson has ‘seen off’ at left-back. He is currently preferred to Marijan Čabraja and in recent years only Josh Doig, now at Verona, came close to usurping his left-back slot.
“There have been times when managers have come in and signed left-backs and it’s looked like he might not play,” Hanlon continues. “You think he might fall down the pecking order but he never does and there’s a reason for that – he plays so well and is so consistent. He works hard every day, he’s exactly what you’d want if you’re a manager.”