Lewis Stevenson has revealed boss Neil Lennon’s insistence that winning is everything hasn’t slackened with Hibs’ return to the Premiership.
Having accepted the demands made by Lennon in his first season in charge at Easter Road as the Capital club finally escaped the clutches of the Championship, Stevenson admitted he though he might cut his players a bit of slack as the top flight’s “new boys”.
But Lennon has continued to be as hard a taskmaster, a fact, insisted Stevenson, which is reflected in Hibs sitting third in the table and going into today’s home match against St Johnstone seeking a fifth successive victory.
And the little left-back is convinced the driving force that is Lennon is the reason why he and his team-mates continued to win even although they were out on their feet as they headed towards the latest international break.
Lennon disclosed that a punishing run of five matches in a fortnight, including a Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic and the first Edinburgh derby of the season, had taken such a toll he’d been left with only 15 fit players at his disposal.
Now, though, Stevenson believes they have made the most of the past fortnight, returning to action prepared for what is again going to be a hectic schedule with no fewer than seven games pencilled in for December.
The 29-year-old said: “The break came at a good time. Sometimes when you are winning you want to keep that momentum going. But the whole squad was struggling, everyone had a niggle here and there.
“To go into those four league games in two weeks and come away with 12 points, everyone was delighted. Now we are all refreshed and I think a few boys will be ready to come back in as well.”
Stevenson believes Lennon’s influence was no more evident than during Hibs last match against Dundee a half-time pep talk helping lift them to a 2-1 win.
He said: “It’s not just physical sometimes, it’s mental as well. It helps when you are winning, you get that adrenaline that keeps you going.
“It was strange against Dundee, it looked like we had more energy in the second half than we did in the first. That might have been because the manager had a few stern words at half-time. He knew we had been giving our all but sometimes you need that to get you over the line. And we had that carrot dangling where if we got a result we’d get a few days off.”
Lennon famously branded his players a “boy band” on the day he took over from Alan Stubbs, an accusation Stevenson admitted hurt but one which, he revealed, his gaffer still employs, albeit on an infrequent basis.
He said: “In the past we might have drawn a game and thought it was a decent result - but he’s not been happy. It hasn’t been good enough for him which I think is good. We know we are going into every game to try and win, even if it is Celtic or whoever. It takes a bit of getting used to. It was different last season because we were expected to win every game in the Championship. I thought he might change when we went up - but he hasn’t let up at all.
“We have this team spirit and belief, it’s not just that we want to win, we need to win. Sometimes it’s nice to win a tight game where you don’t play well. People always used to say Hibs were a soft touch but I didn’t really see that. But the more we have become not a soft touch - if that makes sense - the more I do.
“The manager said that to us when he came in and he still uses it from time to time and it hits us hard. We don’t want to be remembered as that. It hasn’t been used for a while, hopefully it stays that way.”