ALTHOUGH still only 25, Lewis Stevenson will shortly welcome his seventh manager to Easter Road. Having made his debut under Tony Mowbray in 2005, he has since played for John Collins, Mixu Paatelainen, John Hughes, Colin Calderwood and Pat Fenlon, and is well aware that Hibernian have suffered from a lack of continuity over recent years.
Nonetheless, Stevenson is sure there are a lot of positive aspects of the club that can help his next manager. And he is honest enough to accept that he and his team-mates have possibly let down some of their previous bosses.
“We’ve got everything in place,” he said yesterday. “We’ve got a great stadium, the fan base, the training ground – everything’s there. It’s maybe just the team that people are saying is not in place. Hopefully we can change that, but I do feel we’ve got a good enough squad to be competing higher up the league. It’s easy saying it: we just need to go out and do it.
“I hope the next manager is for the long term. But I’ve been saying that for the last few managers we’ve had and it’s not really been the case. It’s basically up to the players and the results as well. We can’t talk about it being for the long haul if we’re not getting the results on a Saturday. Everyone knows it’s a results-based business and if we do get good results and climb high up the league and have good cup runs then the manager will stay in place for a long time.”
Although careful to take nothing for granted when it came to Fenlon’s successor, Stevenson admitted that the players had asked former Inverness midfielder Owain Tudur Jones what it was like to work with Terry Butcher. And he voiced an admiration for one particular quality of the teams put out by Butcher – a quality that many have suggested has been lacking for some time at Hibs.
“People have been asking Owain about Terry Butcher. Without Jonesy saying anything we know he’s done a great job at Inverness. We always hate playing against his teams – they’re always well organised, work hard and I think they play better football than they’re given credit for.
“There’s been a lot of speculation and I’m sure whoever gets the job will do a good job, and everyone will be fully behind whoever’s put in place. We won’t know until someone’s put in place, but people are saying it’s going to be him.
“It would be good to play for a team that people hate playing against. Easter Road has been a place in the last few years where teams enjoy playing against us, so it would be nice if it was a place where teams didn’t like playing against us. Players do talk about the next manager, it’s the natural thing to do, but you can’t really do anything until the new manager’s in place and you see what he’s actually like. We can’t really do anything until he comes in, and then we can take things from there. It’s important to get a new manager in quickly. It’s an important time of the year. When a manager leaves at the end of the season it gives the club more time.
“But we’ve got some massive games coming up in the league and we’ve got a cup game at the end of the month as well, so it would be good to get a manager in place as soon as possible so everyone knows what direction we’re going in. You don’t want to get a manager in and two days later be playing a game. With the international break, it would be good to have him in and have a bit of time to work with the squad and show us the things he wants us to change, and the things he wants us to do.”
Despite his substantial experience of coping with managerial changes, Stevenson said dealing with departures felt more difficult now rather than easier. “I’ve been through this situation a few times before and it’s not ideal. It doesn’t get any easier.
“The last manager was the longest serving we’ve had since Tony Mowbray, and all the boys got on with him and everyone bought into the way he wanted to play. It was disappointing what happened, but we just have to get on with it. It probably gets harder to deal with this situation when a manager leaves. When I was younger I was probably more blasé and I just got on with it. To be honest, it’s all I’ve known – I went from year to year with a new manager. I know what you’ve got to do. You’ve just got to be yourself, work hard and make sure you’re in the manager’s plans. If not, you have to fight your way in.”