LEWIS Stevenson admits that there have been times when he has considered a career away from football. But, instead of giving into the demons that haunt him when results turn sour or his form dips, he has shown the kind of durability not readily associated with the playing or management staff at Hibernian in recent years.
On Saturday, the 25-year-old made his 200th appearance for the club and has seen many bosses and colleagues come and go since he made his debut, in a League Cup match against Ayr United, in 2005.
“You don’t like to see managers come and go, and getting continuity has probably been one of the hardest things,” said Stevenson. “I feel like I’ve changed my style with every manager that has come in.
But it’s been good that so many different managers have seen a reason to keep me.
“On the most part I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s been up and down, but it’s nice to get to 200 games. I’ve been told I’m the first in a long time to reach that milestone, so it’s a good achievement. I don’t look into things like this too much, but it was nice and people were coming up to me and saying ‘well done’, which makes a change!”
This weekend Hibs travel to Celtic Park, where Stevenson has won before. He is astute enough to know that opportunity isn’t afforded to many players and realistic enough to recognise that a repeat, against a team currently firing on all cylinders domestically, will be tough, but he also knows that form is rarely constant and says there is a good level of belief in the Hibs team and the chances of causing an upset. That level of positivity and rational thinking has not always been as high.
While the early days of his career threw up more positives than negatives as he held down his place in the first team and picked up a League Cup winner’s medal in 2007, he says the managerial switches, relegation battles and cup final defeats of the past few seasons did take their toll and left him questioning his career choice and his ability.
Stevenson added: “I’ve had a few niggling injuries and a loss of form where I felt I couldn’t do anything right. I was fed up with the game – not just at Hibs. I was beginning to think about things after football. But I kept my head down and dug in and it’s worked out so far. Hopefully there’s plenty more games to come.
“After a loss of form and a few defeats, you hate going to the shops. People look at you as if to say you’re p***. It is hard but it probably gave me that kick up the backside to try and prove them wrong. There have been a few of those moments. Mostly after cup finals and when we’ve gone on bad runs of form. It’s one of those things that you have to grind through.
“If I was to give anyone advice it would be to stick with it. You are in the team at a club like Hibs for a reason. You just have to think positive. Every time you get beat, football can be the hardest job in the world. But when you win it can be the best.”
Making his 200th appearance, he didn’t get to taste victory but a last-gasp equaliser meant he didn’t endure a defeat either,and under Terry Butcher he feels the signs are promising. But, he admits, it’s not the first time he has thought that in recent years. Others have failed to deliver, but he refuses to stick in the boot.
“I think you learn loads of things from different people,” he said. “Even in the times I wasn’t playing I still learned a lot, not just on the football pitch but in your character as well. I have honestly learned a lot from every one of them and there have been times when the club’s been a great place to be around, even in the last two cup runs and even though they didn’t
finish up the way we wanted them to. To have won nine out of our last 11 Scottish Cup games is a good record for any club.
“I would probably say we have underachieved though. It is one of the biggest clubs, it’s got a good fan base and everything’s in place now. But we’ve not done it on the pitch, which is the most important thing. We’ve got a great chance now. We’ve got a great squad, we’re going in the right direction. The manager has started off well and everyone’s behind him, so hopefully there’s some good times to come.
“He’s not come in with any pre-conceived ideas about anyone. He’s given everyone a chance and I’ve been one of the lucky ones that got to start the first game, and I’ve been keeping my place.”