Hibs great laments 'big mistake' over departure of club legend

Hanlon bids farewell to Hibs after last night's win at Easter Road.Hanlon bids farewell to Hibs after last night's win at Easter Road.
Hanlon bids farewell to Hibs after last night's win at Easter Road.
Lewis ready to move on - but insists team-mate deserves new deal

Hibs great Lewis Stevenson believes the Easter Road board have made a major mistake in allowing club captain Paul Hanlon to bow out at the peak of his powers. And Stevenson, who is more philosophical about his own imminent departure, believes his fellow veteran will DEFINITELY sign for a Scottish Premiership rival over the coming weeks.

Hibs failed to offer new contracts to one-club men Stevenson, now 36, and 34-year-old Hanlon, who will both leave when their deals expire at the end of the current campaign. The pair were afforded a rousing send-off in their farewell home appearances last night, including a lap of honour after a 3-0 win over Motherwell at Easter Road.

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While Stevenson has few complaints about his own exit, he’s adamant that Hanlon – limited for game time under axed boss Nick Montgomery but back in the starting line-up as cover for the injury Will Fish over the past month – should still be leading his boyhood heroes when the new campaign kicks off.

The left back, the most decorated player in club history, said: “I can probably say this now - I think with Paul it’s a big mistake. He’s shown the last few games how good he can be.

“A left centre-half is very hard to come by, and he’s still playing as well as he’s ever done. Anyone watching that game, any potential suitors, he’s going to be getting a few offers next season.

 “One hundred per cent he’s still a Premiership player. Outside the Old Firm – and obviously he’s not going to go to Hearts – there’ll be plenty teams looking at him.

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“He’s maybe playing with nothing to lose. But even the Aberdeen game there, we got beat 4-0 and I still think he was the best player on the pitch. Maybe I’m being biased – he’s my old pal and I’ve played a lot of games with him – but he’s still got a lot to offer, and I’m sure somebody’s going to get a good left centre-half, which are hard to come by.”

Addressing his own looming departure, with a move to hometown club Raith Rovers looking more likely, Stevenson insisted: “I’ve no complaints and I totally understand the club’s position. I’m 36 and they need to move on at some point.”

Admitting it had been special to share his farewell ceremony with Hanlon, he revealed: “A few people have asked if it’s not weird, us leaving at the same time. But Paul has been here my whole Hibs career. In 90 per cent of my games here, he’s been beside me, pulling me out of the shxx!

“I owe a lot to him. And he would probably say the same about me.”