DCSIMG

Lewis Stevenson is big deal for Pat Fenlon

Stevenson: Deal top priority for Fenlon. Picture: SNS

Stevenson: Deal top priority for Fenlon. Picture: SNS

  • by MOIRA GORDON
 

HIBS’ Lewis Stevenson is too busy focusing on a week he says could shape the club’s season to worry about his long-term future but his manager has made it clear that he would like to hold on to the midfielder and is keen to offer him a new deal before his current contract expires in the summer.

HIBS’ Lewis Stevenson is too busy focusing on a week he says could shape the club’s season to worry about his long-term future but his manager has made it clear that he would like to hold on to the midfielder and is keen to offer him a new deal before his current contract expires in the summer.

While Stevenson is concentrating on helping the club find some consistency, beginning against Aberdeen away in the league today and continuing in next weekend’s Scottish Cup tie against the same opponents at Easter Road, his boss, Pat Fenlon, says he is striving for greater continuity in his squad as he seeks to stabilise and improve the club’s footballing fortunes.

Along with the likes of Eion Doyle and Gary Deegan, who will also be free agents at the end of the season, Stevenson is someone Fenlon has factored into his plans for the future.

“Lewy, David Wotherspoon and Paul Hanlon are probably the three who have been part of the fabric since before I was here,” the manager says. “I want to build a team here and I think it’s important that we try to reward people who have done well.

“We’ve chopped and changed which was necessary but I feel now that the club needs stability in the group. It’s important we try to gel and knit them together. There are some areas where you have to take the short-term route through loans but we are also looking at the long term. The group we have is young and we want to build on that.

“The discussions are private but the fact we are sitting down talking is probably an indication of where they want to be.”

Stevenson, though, is in no rush. He accepts there have been more pressing matters to deal with in the past few weeks, with the club working to extend the loan deals of Leigh Griffiths, Ryan McGivern and Jorge Claros, and he has put contract issues to the back of his mind.

“This week could shape our whole season,” says Fenlon. “In the league, trying to fight up to second or third place, and then it’s the cup the week after which we obviously want to have a good run in.

“They have beaten us twice in the league but the games were tight and could have gone either way, especially at Easter Road. They have a strong squad and a good attacking threat as well, so we know it will be a tough game. We managed to get a win last year when we needed it at the end of the season so if we can do that again that would be good.”

Having been hampered by injury at the start of the season, Stevenson has played his way back into Fenlon’s starting line-up, impressing his manager, who appreciates his versatility and willingness to keep fighting for a win.

“Last season he was the one stand-out who you knew, when he crossed the line, he would scrap and fight for everything in games,” enthuses Fenlon. “He trains like that as well. You see him on the park and he is at it – he doesn’t shirk anything yet he is a very quiet and unassuming boy around the place. Sometimes you have to check to see if he is in because he doesn’t talk a lot.”

One of those who has endured the torment of previous seasons and assumed more than his fair share of responsibility for the poor results, part of the process for the 25-year-old is getting him to believe in himself as much as the management do.

“But I think he is growing into a stronger character,” insists Fenlon. “He knows we have confidence in him. He has great ability and it’s about getting that out of him on a regular basis and getting him to believe he is a very good footballer and he will get better. That’s the key to it. I think he is starting to buy into that now.

“I’m not saying previous managers didn’t trust him but he knows I believe in him. He knows that he has been in a lot of the teams I have picked but he probably needs to chill out a little bit and realise that it’s not all his fault if we lose games. That’s all part of the process of playing regularly.

“I see him as a midfielder but, in this day and age, with squads being tight it’s great that we know he can go in and play left-back for us. We played him on the left side of midfield last week and he can also play in the centre. He’s that type of player – if you stuck him at right-back or centre-half he’d try to do a job for you. In the current situation where we don’t have loads of money, we need some utility players.”

 

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