Wise words given to Hibs starlet Josh Doig as summer of interest awaits
Lewis Stevenson has been around Scottish football long enough to see patterns emerge. But, this term, he is hoping that Hibs can deviate from the norm and give themselves the best possible chance of replicating last season’s league achievements, perhaps even building on them.
To do that, they will have to repel interest in some of their more sought after players, such as the young man who usurped him at left-back for large chunks of the campaign, Josh Doig and find a way to freshen the squad with one or two new faces, says the full-back.
With several players back at East Mains for tests and checks on Friday, the proper pre-season action kicks off on Monday when the bulk of the first-team squad get down to business in preparation for their opening European tie, on July 22, and their first Premiership match, away to Motherwell, in the first week of August.
The transfer window means speculation remains rife that some of last season’s regulars will follow Ofir Marciano out the door. But, unlike the Israeli goalkeeper, the others are under contract, leaving the club to weigh up the pros and cons when bids come in.
Finding the right balance is tricky for the club, who want players who want to be there, and for the players, who have to consider their career development and playing opportunities, with the often significant cash rewards associated with moving on, especially down south.
“One of the problems for the teams outside the Old Firm is that when you have a successful season your best players get picked up and you have to start again so hopefully we can keep a hold of players. I’m sure we will keep the nucleus of the squad who did so well in the league last season together.
“One change can make a big difference, though. I have thought there wouldn’t be many changes before and there were. So you never know how it’s going to be, but hopefully we can keep a lot of the boys.
“We have a few being touted for moves but we have some massive games in Europe and the derbies are back, so I’m sure they will want to be part of that.”
The fans are not the only ones hoping that new faces will be brought in to bolster the club’s renewed bid for silverware, though, with Stevenson stating it can give sides fresh impetus. But he says that seeing others choose to extend their Hibs career can also be uplifting.
“The Scottish Cup final kind of overshadowed how well we did in the league last season. But to get a third place finish again this season we would need to hold onto the majority of our players.
“The sky’s the limit for Josh, he’s got loads of great attributes but he’s only 19. He played a lot of games last season at a high level, which is magnificent but he still has things to learn and I think Hibs is a good place for him to do that.
“He’s still not played in front of fans and experienced what that’s like, so hopefully we can hold on to him for a bit longer.
“Josh is a great boy and he will go on to have a massive career. What would my advice be to him? I’m not sure because it’s easy for me to say but money can change a lot of things in your life. So you can never argue if someone sees the pound signs, but I do think Hibs is a great place to play.
“Maybe in an ideal world he’d get bought and loaned back to keep learning here. I think staying to play more games would help him in the long-term.
“It was a strange season all round last year so to get that feeling of playing in front of the supporters.
“That might kick him on again even further.
“It felt strange last season, like a bounce game or reserve game. It is a cliche but fans do make football and it did feel different without them. Things like communicating with team mates was easier because you could hear everything. When fans are in you can get caught up in the noise, caught up in the heat of the moment, but, look, I’m sure the fans will be right behind him and they could help him along.”
The 33-year-old, whose loyalty to Hibs is well-recognised, was an advocate, mentor and role-model to the youngster in his breakthrough season and credits him with the improvements he made to his own game in order to compete, but experience tells him not to get too carried away.m not to get too carried away.
“It’s hard when you come through as a young player, sometimes people think you are doing better than you are and the second season syndrome kicks in. That’s something we will speak to him about as a team. It’s not always plain sailing when you come through, do really well and then the next year there is an expectation from people wanting you to be the player they think you already are.
“Sometimes you can be touted and then fall back. So, I can see why people would want to move when their stock is high because you never know what’s round the corner. But he is so level-headed. Attributes-wise, he has everything, but I still think he could do another season here and see where that takes him.
“Hibs fans are quite expectant and after finishing third last season there will be added pressure. They will be expecting the same again but there were a few games last season, probably at home, where we needed them behind us so it will be good to get them back.”
Lewis Stevenson was speaking as he and team-mate Paul Hanlon handed over defibrillators, donated by their Hanlon Stevenson Foundation, to four local youth clubs.