AS one of the few who have weathered the storm of demonstrations and demotions at Hibs, Lewis Stevenson knows what it is like to dread home fixtures. So, he has a modicum of sympathy for his Rangers counterparts, who will run out in front of a disengaged support tonight at an echoing Ibrox.
But he will still be doing his utmost to help stoke the disharmony at Rangers by trying to ensure the Leith side leapfrog them into second place with their third successive win over the Glasgow side.
“Easter Road was a hard place for us to play and I don’t know if maybe Ibrox is becoming like that for Rangers,” the left-back said. “But I’m sure if they did get a couple of early goals the crowd will get right behind them. We have to try and keep the crowd on their back. We need to frustrate them and use it as a tool for us.
“When you’re not doing well at home, you always think today’s going to be the day but it didn’t happen. Our home form was terrible for a few years. It’s changed now and it makes a massive difference when you are looking forward to playing in front of your home fans.
“It would be easy for Hibs fans to turn their back on us after last season but they’ve been great with us.”
The fact that Hibs have rallied after an unsteady start to their Championship season and are now unbeaten since early December has won over many fans who believe things are now moving in the right direction.
It is a different story at Rangers, where uncertainty off the pitch and poor results on it have seen the club stutter from one negative headline to another. Tomorrow night fans will stage another demonstration outside the ground. Stevenson says that makes life hard for players who he insists are still capable of producing the goods.
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“We had [protests] a few times last season and it wasn’t nice. But you can understand it. It almost clears the air and gets it off the fans’ mind.
“They are still good players [at Rangers]. They don’t become bad players overnight. Their form isn’t great but it’s not that bad. They’ve still been picking up points and at one stage they were eight points ahead of us. We need to try and win and get ahead of them because they have some games in hand.
“It’s tough when confidence is low. You feel you can’t do anything right. It doesn’t come back straight away. It needs a build-up. It could take a couple of months or a couple of good performances. Hopefully, it doesn’t start against us on Friday but they are still a massive club. I’ve been to Ibrox before and been on the wrong end of a hiding so you treat it like any other game. They are ahead of us in the league but, if we play well, we can cause them trouble like we have previously,” explains the player who was asked to lead Hibs out last weekend to mark his 250th appearance for the capital club.
“It was a nice gesture by the manager. He didn’t have to do it. It was strange to lead the team out. The boys were having a good chuckle about it. The mascots ran out and I was meant to be keeping control of them. But one ran off one way and the other ran off the other way. “I found out a few minutes before the warm-up and it’s always a great honour to captain Hibs – even though I’ve only done it once.” Not one of the most vocal players, Stevenson prefers to go about his business quietly and humbly.
“I’m not one to take centre stage,” he says. “I’m not one to stand up and tell people how I feel but I am happy to have a quiet word with players if it will help them.
“No manager has tried to foist that role on me. I don’t think I’d be taken seriously if I tried to do that. I respect people more if they lead by example rather than shouting at others and telling them what to do.”
But having lasted longer than most and survived every cull and some of the club’s sorest results, the 27-year-old is hoping to add more highlights to his Hibernian showreel.
“It’s been hard. I’ve had to fight for my place. I’ve not been a stick-on starter but luckily I’ve stuck around and it’s worked out for me.”