Why Lewis Stevenson is looking forward, not back, at Hibs as he speaks on contract fears and new deal

"I never wanted to be a mascot,” Lewis Stevenson says, with that honesty that has been as much as feature of his 18 seasons at Hibs as his tough tackling and self-deprecatory comments.
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He is speaking of the Easter Road side’s decision to extend his contract by another 12 months. He has played 27 times in all competitions this season but admits there was a time when he wasn’t sure if a new deal would be forthcoming.

"This was probably the closest I’ve been to not getting a contract,” he admits. "I’ve always been pretty laid back, my wife does the worrying for me – she’s the one wondering about the bills, if we have to sell the house, sell one of the kids! But I'm sure that will come around again about Christmas time, the same conversations will happen.

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“I understand the club’s position, they need to move on and evolve and try to look to the future but I still think I can do a decent job here, whether that’s starting or backing up the person in front of me. I think I’d braced myself for leaving, there were times when I resigned myself, even when I was playing. You shouldn’t really be having a 35-year-old starter at left-back but I think I’ve done fairly well, especially since the turn of the year, and the team has done well. The gaffer has been brilliant with me, he’s been honest and there are things he wants me to improve on and develop in my game and I’m very open to these ideas and will try and improve until I do finally hang up the boots.”

Lewis Stevenson is about to begin his 19th season with HibsLewis Stevenson is about to begin his 19th season with Hibs
Lewis Stevenson is about to begin his 19th season with Hibs

He visibly squirms when asked about the various club records he continues to smash through, as though they were an impudent, fresh-faced forward trying to squeeze past him on the touchline – ‘I try not to focus too much on that, the game at the weekend is the most important thing’ – but insists he isn’t blind to his achievements in green and white.

People come up to me and you see how much it means for all different ages… I think sometimes it does hit home. But as a player you are still focusing on the immediate future than what has happened in the past,” he says.

There will come a time when Stevenson will hang up his boots, even if most Hibs fans don’t want to prepare for that eventuality. Lee Johnson pointed out this week that there was a reason successive managers over the best part of two decades had selected the dependable full-back/centre-back/right-back/left-wingback/midfielder. He ‘gets’ the culture at the club. Managers, head coaches, other players, and the non-football staff need figures like Stevenson, and Paul Hanlon, and Darren McGregor around the place.

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"I never wanted to stay for sentimental reasons,” Stevenson continues. “I’ve played a lot of games this season, more than I thought. I probably feel as close to 100 per cent as I ever have. There are still improvements I can make but I do think I’ve earned another year and I need to try and prove that next season. You can get stuck in your ways and you need to be open and try to develop – even since I started the game has changed so much. Tactically it’s different, physically it’s different. When I first started the full backs barely crossed the halfway line. Then there was a time when you were up and down, now it’s all inverted, outside and different lines so it has changed and kept it fresh for me.”

The stalwart's approach to training was praised by Lee JohnsonThe stalwart's approach to training was praised by Lee Johnson
The stalwart's approach to training was praised by Lee Johnson

When one considers how McGregor has transitioned to a player-coach for the development side, including playing alongside and tutoring defenders such as Jacob Blaney, Kyle McClelland, Kanayo Megwa, and Oscar MacIntyre, along with coaching the Hibs under-18s, one can see the possibilities for Stevenson. Josh Doig came close to unseating Stevenson as first-choice left-back during his rapid rise before a £3 million move to Serie A with Hellas Verona, and while the stalwart tries to brush off any influence in the Scotland Under-21 captain journey, his eyes light up at the prospect of guiding more youngsters to a similar destination.

“I kind of had that role with Josh, I tried to help him and even with Marijan [Čabraja] coming in, he didn’t know the league at all so every game he was playing I would try to tell him what the players would do. You always try to help, I always try to help because I don’t think it would suit me to be in that situation when you are vying with, and not getting on with the person. It’s a good group of boys here and everyone is pulling in the same direction and I think that makes a big difference.”

But there’s the small matter of a must-win game at Aberdeen on Saturday, if Hibs are serious about challenging for third or fourth. Stevenson wouldn’t mind another crack at Europe either, and the chance to add to his 14 games in continental competition.

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"We’re focused on us and trying to get three points, it’s as massive for us as it is for them,” he states. “We can claw the gap back but we need to pick up points and they’re hard to come by in the top six. We’ve got the Old Firm coming up and it will be tough. If we want to finish third we need to go up there and win. Even fifth could be enough for Europe if Celtic win the cup, but we’re aiming as high as we can. You don’t want teams doing you favours, you want to do it yourself.”

It is typical Stevenson that his main focus is three points on Saturday, and nothing else. And you can bet he’ll be doing his damndest to drag Hibs to victory by himself, if it comes to it.