Lewis Stevenson opens up on 'amazing' Hibs career, possible St Mirren move, John Hughes and the next generation of left-backs
Having made his 500th appearance for the club against Celtic on Monday, the club announced that they have also extended his contract by another season, tying him to the Easter Road side until the summer of 2022 at least.
It was a football decision, not a sentimental one, according to manager Jack Ross. But it has been a sentimental journey for the 33-year-old, who never imagined he would still be at the club, still holding down a first-team place, 15 years after he made his debut.
Envy for some, boring for others
“I don't think anyone is more surprised than me,” said the popular full-back.
“It’s mad, just how fast it has flown in. A lot has happened, both good and bad, in between, but for the most part I have had an amazing time here and hopefully I’ve still got a bit to give.
“It’s strange, it’s all I’ve ever known. Every player that comes in, who has played for five or six different teams, I’ve asked them what it has been like moving about. But I think they kind of envy me for being able to stay at home, with my family.
“To be honest, though, there are times when Hibs has felt like five different clubs because of the different managers, takeovers and stuff like that. That has been strange. But, the guys who have had five different clubs maybe think I’ve had a boring career so it works all different ways.”
Self-deprecating, a consummate professional, humble, a solid team-mate and a manager’s dream, Stevenson is virtually unique in the power-hungry, egotistical and competitive world of football. One of the most altruistic beings in the game, he remains universally liked by those who know him, have worked with him or have had regular dealings with him. Those who haven’t are missing out.
But, just as his new deal wasn’t based on sentiment, the 33-year-old isn’t a cuddly club mascot. Competitive on the park, he has a perseverance that epitomises the Leith motto and explains his longevity and his place in the history books as the only Hibs player to ever win both the League and Scottish Cups.
As hundreds of players have come and gone and up to 15 managers – both full-time and caretaker – have presided over first-team matters in his time at the club, Stevenson has been the constant.
Possible St Mirren loan
That enduring link between an elite player and just one club is an unusual one in the modern era. But Stevenson does not feel deprived of the stimulus provided by the nomadic life.
Admitting that there have been times when he has had to confront the possibility of a move, he is thankful that the need has never fully transpired.
“There were maybe a couple of seasons when I didn't play that much under John Hughes, which was weird because I got on really well with him when he was manager and he did give me chances but I wasn't really taking them. It was my fault. I couldn’t blame him. But, there was talk of me maybe going on loan. I think it was St Mirren who came in for me at that time and he put the ball in my court; he asked if I wanted to stay or go out and try to get game-time. But then an injury came up and I was back in the team! Little things could have changed the whole direction of my career. So, for me to play 500 games, that’s something I will definitely look back on as a great achievement when I do eventually hang my boots up.”
That won’t be for another year, thanks to the new deal, and he is grateful to have that sewn up so early in the campaign.
“There have been times when I’ve got to March or April time and they still haven’t given me a contract but then I managed to get a year contract here and there so the club have shown loyalty to me and I have shown loyalty to the club and it has been a good match up all round. It would feel weird to go to another team.”
Doig and Mackie
Out of the team at the start of the season, ousted by the teenage Josh Doig, he has also seen 22-year-old Sean Mackie making a grab for the left-back berth. Well aware that time has little intention of standing still on his behalf, he knows that while he has battled back again this season to prove his worth, the day will come when can’t.
Happy to guide those coming behind him, when that day dawns he would love it to be either Doig or Mackie who fill the void.
“It's inevitable that it was going to happen some time and I think it would sit better with me if it was someone who came through the youth system in the way I did and if I can help Josh the way David Murphy helped me, and Sean Mackie, who I think sometimes gets overlooked but has done really well when he’s come in despite some bad injuries recently, I will.
“Sean is another who has a lot of attributes to have a great career in the game, but just now, Josh is flying. He's doing really well when he plays but there's still going to be times when I have to come in and help him out a wee bit.”
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