Lewis Stevenson talks Hibs team-mate inspiration, long-term goals and a new challenger
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Having finished up last season as the club’s first-choice left-back once again, having usurped Croatian defender Marijan Cabraja during the 2022/23 term, Stevenson was given a new deal to keep him at Easter Road for at least another 12 months. But he knows if he wants to continue playing in green and white as long as he wishes then he’ll need to impress all over again.
Following the release of Aiden McGeady, Stevenson was briefly the oldest outfield player in the squad at the age of 35, but that changed with the arrival of Le Fondre from Sydney FC, who has 13 months on his new team-mate. Seeing someone who can still excel a few months short of their 37th birthday is a source of inspiration, though Stevenson insists he isn’t setting any long-term goals.
“Adam has a year on me so that gives me hope! But you just play the short game, concentrate on small targets and see how it goes,” he told the Daily Record.
"Adam looks in good nick. He’s played a lot of games at a good level and has that savvy. He’s a clever player. His movement in the box and the number of goals he has scored at different levels of the game show he can adapt.
"You can learn off strikers, how they move and physically there’s a lot of gym work he does that he says helps keep him fit, strong and keeps the old bones going. I’ll take every bit of advice I can from people like that.”
Stevenson became the club’s record holder for league appearances last season but sits in fourth in the table for games in all competitions, behind Pat Stanton, Arthur Duncan and leader Gordon Smith. Still 42 shy of Stanton in third, he would have to make more appearances in a single season than he has since 2018-19 if he’s going to have any chance of sneaking into the top three this campaign, while catching Smith would take two seasons playing a similar number of games to last term.
It’s a tall order but not one which Stevenson is losing any sleep over. He doesn’t believe setting individual targets would do any good at this stage of his career as he stubbornly refuses to look beyond the next match.
“Every time I play a game Darren McGregor says ‘that’s you up to blah blah blah..’ he said.
“I think he’s the one that keeps stats updated! He looks at it more than me. I genuinely don’t look at it. You can stop very suddenly so you don’t want to give yourself too many targets.
“The only targets I need are staying fit and trying to do things and do them well in games.”
There have been many defenders brought to Easter Road throughout recent years with the idea of them taking the left-back spot from Stevenson, and they’ve all either failed to grasp that opportunity or haven’t stuck around long enough to outlast him.
The latest challenger is Jordan Obita, arriving this summer from Wycombe Wanderers. At 29 years of age, with years of English Championship football under his belt, the “young” contender certainly has the pedigree and experience to make the role his own.
“Jordan’s a lovely guy, good quality on the ball and has everything to do well in this league,” praised Stevenson. “He looks good in training and I’m sure we’ll be battling for the spot. I’ve been here before. I’m just here to do the best I can and see where it takes me.
“Squad depth is important. I definitely don’t expect to play every single game. I’m pretty sure the manager knows what I can do now and he can rely on me in certain games. Hopefully that will be the case this season.”
For the meantime, it’s all about focusing on the day to day as Stevenson tries to use the club’s pre-season training camp to reach maximum fitness levels ahead of the new campaign. It’s the 19th time he’s done this with Hibs, but there’s no getting used to the gruelling drills, particularly in the unforgiven heat of Spain’s south coast.
“People have been asking me how many I’ve done. It’s mad, they don’t get any easier. They’ve probably changed a little bit over the years, with sport science it’s all different now. It’s been good, it’s been tough,” he said.
“It’s even harder in this heat! I did a few army ones, that was with Colin Calderwood. Mixu’s were always tough. But it’s hard to distinguish because there have been so many! The army ones were character building. I think the army boys wanted to see if they could break you.
“Physically we were usually not bad at stuff like smoke bombs, where you go under the tunnels. But again I think it was a mental thing. They were good.
“Tony Mowbray was my first one, that was more football based, which was a big learning curve because I went straight from school to do that. The difference now it is a lot more science based and controlled. There are a lot more parameters they look for and they can tell you if you’re doing too much or too less.
“In the past it felt more like runs that were almost impossible to finish. It was almost more of a mental challenge, the gaffer trying to see how resilient you were. I’m still enjoying it, I still feel pretty good, so hopefully I still have another one in me after this!”