The year that will end in a few hours time has obviously been a momentous one for Hibs, the Capital club finally smashing football’s biggest hoodoo by lifting the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years.
However, Lewis Stevenson believes he and his team-mates can make 2017 just as memorable by ending the Easter Road outfit’s three-year exile from Scotland’s top flight.
And, he insisted, the experience of boss Neil Lennon, who won five titles as a player with Celtic and guided the Hoops to three more as manager, will prove vital in the second half of the season as Hibs go toe-to-toe with Dundee United.
The Tannadice outfit replaced Hibs at the top of the Championship table as Lennon’s players surrendered two precious points as they were forced to settle for a draw against Raith Rovers last weekend. Stevenson was adamant there were signs within their performance that everything is coming together again with the return early in the new year of influential midfielders John McGinn and Fraser Fyvie certain to give the side a massive lift.
However, he admitted, it’s points rather than performances that count, starting with today’s tricky venture to Falkirk, this Hogmanay meeting the seventh of the calendar year between the clubs.
Four of the previous six have ended in draws with one win apiece, Hibs taking three points on the opening day of this season but the memory of Falkirk’s play-off victory in May still vivid in the memory of those involved.
Stevenson said: “Games against Falkirk are always tight. No-one ever runs away with them and they can always go either way. It comes down to fine margins, who takes their chances, a mistake or that bit of magic which we have guys capable of supplying.”
Stevenson admitted it was disappointing to have been toppled from the top spot Hibs had occupied since October 15, but he insisted: “You want to be top but, as long as we’re top in May, that’s the important thing.
“We are in a better position than we were in the last couple of years. We haven’t been great in the last couple of weeks but I thought we were good against Raith, better than when we beat Dumbarton the other week.
“It’s strange how football works. I don’t care how we play today so long as we get the win.
“Every game is massive now. We have to pick up as many points as we can but I’m sure United will be thinking the same. It’s a case of making sure we focus on ourselves.”
Asked to look back on the year that’s ending, Stevenson, Hibs’ longest-serving player, said: “We had some extreme lows not getting promoted and losing the final of the League Cup although we obviously enjoyed winning the Scottish Cup – it kind of papered over the cracks of not getting promoted.
“But that’s in the past. We can’t dwell on it. The league is our bread and butter – that’s what we work for every day. The cup is a bonus although we’ll obviously compete in it when it comes around, but we just want to get back into the top league where this club belongs. It’s easy to say that but we want to do it.”
Team-mate Paul Hanlon revealed last week how he pondered his future at the club before committing to a new three-year deal, wondering how winning the Scottish Cup could be topped.
And Stevenson, the only Hibs player to hold both Scottish and League Cup winner’s medals, admitted that was a question he, too, couldn’t answer.
He said: “I’ve never been promoted so I don’t know what it’s like, but it’s the best thing we can hope for.
“The gaffer has won leagues before, he knows what it takes. Things have never been down too much because we know things could have been much different.”