Why a new Hibs deal for Lewis Stevenson makes sense for club, player, and emerging talent

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Death, taxes, and Lewis Stevenson almost apologetically putting in a shift at left-back for Hibs.

It will be a strange day when the Easter Road stalwart does eventually hang up his boots but as he approaches the end of his 18th season as a professional footballer, it genuinely would appear to be a no-brainer for club chiefs to offer him a new contract. What a new deal may look like is unclear, although we know it probably isn’t going to be a five-year deal with various add-ons. But some sort of arrangement that keeps him a first-team player for at least next season before a staggered move to a coaching role would appear to be the most obvious.

Player and club are already in talks, and you can almost imagine him apologising for negotiations having to take place. Even at the weekend as he reflected on the 1-1 draw with St Johnstone he said: “The club has a lot of important things to sort out. I’m sure I’m not on the priority list but I’m hoping something will be sorted. I understand the situation, I’m 35 and the club needs to move on. But I still think I can do a decent job at this level.”

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Modest as ever from the man who scored a goal and cleared a St Johnstone effort off the line such as his determination to drag Hibs into the top six, single-handedly if required. Because he knows what it takes to get there, and he knows what it takes to keep pushing to the finish line.

Lewis Stevenson has plenty left in the tank - and a new deal would be a no-brainerLewis Stevenson has plenty left in the tank - and a new deal would be a no-brainer
Lewis Stevenson has plenty left in the tank - and a new deal would be a no-brainer

Speaking about the defender, former Hibs boss Alan Stubbs said in 2016: “Lewis has stayed the test of time, he has had some amount of managers. With the opinions those managers all have, for him still to be here tells you something about him. They have all seen something in him and I can see what. He has been an absolute pleasure to coach. He is a brilliant lad. He doesn’t say much but is one of the nicest guys you will ever come across in football and if you could, you would have 11 of him because he is also a brilliant pro.” Other managers have said similar. It isn’t a coincidence.

Reliable and versatile

In his 18 seasons as a professional footballer with Hibs, Stevenson has missed just 20 games through injury. He is also very, very rarely suspended. On top of that he is as fit as a butcher’s dog, consistent, will play anywhere the manager asks him, and doesn’t have a history of errors that cost points. Why would any manager not want him, at the very least, as a squad player?

There is a standing joke amongst Hibs fans that any time the club brings in another left-back, Stevenson sees them off. Only Josh Doig has really given the Fifer a run for his money but even then, Stevenson was often given the nod to help ease the youngster into first-team football.

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Stevenson has missed just 20 games in 18 seasons through injuryStevenson has missed just 20 games in 18 seasons through injury
Stevenson has missed just 20 games in 18 seasons through injury

At the time of writing he has made two more appearances this season than Marijan Čabraja although there have been times both have played together, but it speaks volumes for his dedication, work ethic, and how numerous different managers have viewed his contribution to the team.

Invaluable expertise – a coaching option?

In nearly two decades at Hibs, Stevenson has experienced it all: glory and heartache in both cup competitions, relegation and promotion, European football, derby wins, victories over both halves of the Old Firm. He’s also come through the club’s youth system. Who better to help bring through the talented crop of youngsters at East Mains? Darren McGregor’s influence on the development squad as an overage player, and the under-18s as a coach has been clear to see.

Naturally Stevenson squirmed out of the spotlight when quizzed on Doig’s meteoric rise following his summer switch to Hellas Verona. “It’s nothing to do with me; Josh did it all himself,” he claimed, adding: "He has been brilliant to work with. I’ve given him little pointers here and there but he has done the hard work himself.”

Stevenson reacts during the recent Edinburgh derby victory over HeartsStevenson reacts during the recent Edinburgh derby victory over Hearts
Stevenson reacts during the recent Edinburgh derby victory over Hearts

Doig himself spoke about watching Stevenson to help improve his own game – ‘I’ve been able to take a bit of his game into mine’, the Scotland Under-21 captain said during his breakout season.

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Eyes are now turning to Oscar MacIntyre, the first-choice left-back for the development squad, and for those who take more than a passing interest in the Hibs academy, perhaps Owen Hastie who can operate in the same position, although he was often used at centre-back during the UEFA Youth League campaign. Stevenson has always given the impression that he’s mildly surprised to still be playing football for Hibs but the fact that he has come through the academy, fought his way into the first team, and established himself as a regular is invaluable for youngsters who are in the early stages of embarking on the same journey.

You are unlikely to see Stevenson prowling the touchline and growling, ‘Shoulders!’ as as reminder to any teenage defender who has dared to let their guard drop, as McGregor has been doing this season with the under-18s, but with the full-back keen to give more on a coaching front as he winds down his career, there’s a rather gaping open goal here for Hibs, with just a slight tap-in needed to make it happen (probably).

Nobody is expecting Stevenson to be starting for Hibs each week next season, least of all the player himself, assuming a new deal is sorted. But keeping him around would not be for sentimental reasons, it would be a calculated decision that would have benefits on and off the park in the immediate and the long term.

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