The last time Hibernian played host to Hamilton, there were demonstrations outside Easter Road as fans railed against those who had taken their club into the Championship.
Back then Lewis Stevenson says he found it difficult to even make eye contact with punters in the street, their looks of disappointment too painful to confront.
That was just over three years ago and the road to recovery has been a difficult one, but winning games and ending cup hoodoos have proved vital in the resolution process.
“I hadn’t really thought about the last time we played against Hamilton,” said the full-back as he turned thoughts to today’s meeting. “That was a horrible day and one we all want to forget. This seems like a much more positive place now. It’s very different circumstances this time.
“It actually feels like a totally different club. Everyone is pulling in the right direction, the fans are with us and long may that continue. It is a great place to play right now. It is much easier to play in front of fans that are willing you to win. Our form at Easter Road has been a lot better and that’s a big part of it.”
Back in the Premiership, Hibs have made a positive start. Building on the momentum of the Scottish Cup win and then securing promotion, they unfurled the Championship flag on the first day of this term and battled back from an early deficit to take three points. They maintained that 100 per cent record with another win, at Ibrox, last week.
That was another test of character but Stevenson says that while relegation was a nightmare, their spell in the second tier gave them time to galvanise and they have returned to the big time stronger, hungrier and more determined than ever to ensure the good times keep on coming.
“After being relegated – if I hadn’t helped the club get back – then I would have felt I hadn’t done my job,” he said. “But it’s only half a job done.”
The only player in the club’s history to have won League Cup and Scottish Cup winners’ medals, the 29-year-old saw his long-service rewarded with a testimonial match in the summer. A favourite of fans, who recognise his work ethic and humility, he says there were times it pained him to even chat with them, so embarrassed was he by the way they had been let down.
“It wouldn’t be what they said, it would be the look they would give you. I can take it from opposing fans – that is almost a boost – but when you get it from your own fans, it hurts. It’s the worst feeling you can get, when your own fans are disappointed in you. But that’s made me stronger, more resilient and I’m sure the same people that thought negatively back them ... hopefully, I’ve turned a few around.
“At the time [of relegation] it was in the papers that everyone was getting released. Thankfully I managed to stick around a bit longer!
“You never want to get relegated – and things might have changed without it. But now we want to be challenging towards the top of the table.
“We’re only two games into the season and even when we were not doing as well, we were able to raise ourselves against the so-called bigger teams like Rangers and Celtic and Hearts. But you need to be winning week-in, week-out. You can’t win at Ibrox then get beat the next week. We want a run of maybe ten games, picking up as many points as possible. That will be the testament to where we are. You can’t judge anything yet.”
l A mascot will be selected for every home game this season courtesy of the Lewis Stevenson Testimonial Fund, who donated money to Leith Links to provide children from local charities the chance to attend games. One will be selected each matchday to walk out with the players. Another two mascots will be chosen at random from the Hibs Kids. Memberships cost £15.