LEWIS STEVENSON has backed team-mate Scott Allan as the man to watch this season, insisting: “There’s no-one near him.”
The Easter Road midfielder claimed the Championship’s player of the year award after a scintillating first season with the Capital club and Stevenson sees no reason why the 24-year-old – enjoying a new lease of life after an unhappy spell in England – can’t do it again.
And, although there’s been continual speculation linking the 24-year-old with a move to Rangers and Celtic, Stevenson believes Hibs, who insist there have been no approaches for the former Dundee United player, are intent on holding on to him.
He said: “Scotty makes things happen all the time and I am sure people would pay just to watch him play. He’s a top player, great to play with and he makes a big difference for us. The club is ambitious, they want to keep their best players and Scotty obviously one of them. He makes so much happen and most of our chances come from him.
“There has been this speculation but I’m glad we have held on to him and it looks as if we are going to have him for this season at least. He was player of the year last season and I don’t see why he won’t be again this season. Ability-wise there’s no-one near him.”
And, Stevenson believes, Allan will prove to be an even greater threat to opposition teams as he seeks to add goals to his game, the midfielder on the mark for the second game in succession – following up his strike against Berwick Rangers – with a fantastic, curling effort to beat Dunfermline goalkeeper Sean Murdoch on Saturday.
Stevenson, who scored Hibs’ second in their 2-1 win at East End Park, said: “It’s something he maybe needs to add to his game and it looks as if he is doing it.”
Hibs complete their preparations with a trip to face Ayr United at Somerset Park tomorrow night before opening their season as they did this time last year by taking on Rangers in the first round of the Petrofac Training Cup.
Stevenson admits the gane has taken on added significance with many seeing the Championship title as a two-horse race between Hibs and the Ibrox outfit. And he sees Saturday’s match as an opportunity to lay down an early marker.
He said: “I think maybe it was going to be another game to get us ready for the start of the league season, the chance to get another ninety minutes under our belt. But we really want to hit the ground running. We want to lay a marker down so we’ll be really positive and be looking to get the win.”
Stevenson feels Hibs are in far better shape than they were as year ago, Stubbs having arrived to find a club in disarray following the humiliation of relegation and with barely enough players to field a team.
He said: “It took us a while to get going last season but we have a style of play that everyone has bought into and we’ve still got a few new faces, who have little injuries, to come in and when they are fit that will add to the team.”