Hibs charity match: 'Family reunion' as heroes past and present return to Easter Road for a great cause
Initially billed as Franck Sauzée’s second homecoming, the Frenchman has sadly had to pull out on health grounds, but the team behind the Hanlon Stevenson Foundation (HSF) have pushed ahead with the event in order to support several causes in the local community. Foundation chiefs are keen to raise as much money as possible and among other causes, are aiming to ensure children needing a helping hand can enjoy a better Christmas as well as assisting low-income families and elderly groups ahead of the winter months.
Two teams – a Sauzée Select, and a Hanlon-Stevenson XI – will do battle on the hallowed turf, with four Scottish Cup winners in the dugout. Alan Stubbs will coach one team, ably assisted by Darren McGregor while Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson will get a taste of management as they link up to lead the other side.
A host of well-loved figures from some of the most noteworthy Hibs teams of the past have signed up for the game. John Burridge, Willie Miller, Gordon Hunter, Mickey Weir, and Gareth Evans of the 1991 Skol Cup-winning side – ‘the team that wouldn’t die’ – will all feature while as well as the four figures in the dugout there will be a healthy contingent from the 2016 history-makers with Scott Allan, Liam Fontaine, Niklas Gunnarsson, and Dylan McGeouch all involved.
The captain of the 2007 League Cup-winning side, Rob Jones, will reunite with his team-mate Ivan Sproule while no-nonsense centre-backs will be well represented with Darren Dods, John Hughes, James McPake, Ian Murray, and Steven Tweed all down to take part as well as Jones.
Laura Kennedy, the club’s most decorated player of all time and the first woman to be honoured with a place in the Hibs Hall of Fame will finally get a chance to play at the stadium, having not had the chance during her trophy-laden spell with the women’s team in the early 2000s.
Fans’ favourites Leigh Griffiths and Derek Riordan will play a part in the game while Garry O’Connor and son Josh, currently spearheading the Hibs under-19s’ attack, will become the first Hibs father and son duo to play together on the Easter Road pitch. The younger O’Connor’s team-mate Malek Zaid will also be introduced as the first player to benefit from the HSF scholarship programme.
A host of faces to have shared a dressing room with Sauzée will also return with Craig Brewster, Dirk Lehmann, Stuart Lovell, Tam McManus, John O’Neil, and Gary Smith all involved. On top of that more recent faces to have pulled on the green and white – Dean Shiels, John Rankin, Danny Swanson, Colin Nish, and Liam Craig – are supporting the event while former player and current scout Kevin Harper, the first black player to appear for Hibs, will make a return to the pitch he graced for five and a bit seasons.
Writing on social media he said: “I suppose I’d better get a pre-season in for this… Looking forward to this, for a fantastic cause. I am sure the memories will flood back when I step out onto the pitch. But I might be crawling off it after one run!”