There have been times in the past when Lewis Stevenson won awards and felt the need to apologise for it but the fact he was delighted to be named the Hibernian Players’ Player of the Year last weekend says everything about the way the club’s fortunes have turned in the last couple of years.
A man who has been lauded by supporters and his fellow players at end-of-season prizegiving ceremonies during the tough times, in those circumstances he was almost embarrassed to be rewarded.
“In the past there have been years when there have been few to pick from,” said the defender. “This year it could have been anyone in the squad, so it was a nice position to find myself in. It was a good night and great to interact with the fans, who in the main are happy with what they’ve seen. It is a good club to be involved with and we’re going in the right direction.
“The players’ award is the biggest compliment you can get. It’s voted by the people who you spend your life with during the season. You go through highs and lows together and, I’ve said it before, but this is a great group of boys. There are no cliques and we stick together. It has been an enjoyable season.”
That hasn’t always been the case but despite the Scottish Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Aberdeen this campaign is one that Stevenson can cherish. Having guaranteed a return to the top flight at the third attempt, they are in the enviable position of being able to see out the remaining league games with no nerves to weigh them down.
“It will be nice to go into a game without any pressure and be able to just enjoy it,” he said. “However, we will be professional and do it right. We know other sides have a lot to play for and we want to put a good performance in and rack up some more points.”
Stevenson was one of those rested by manager Neil Lennon on Wednesday night as Hibs came under fire for fielding a weakened team against one of the relegation candidates, Raith Rovers.
“It was a good performance and a good game,” added Stevenson. “Sometimes, at this stage of the season, games can be a little bit flat, but against Raith we had a lot of boys who were given a chance, who haven’t been playing, and they did well. If they played week-in, week-out, we’d probably still be in the position we are.” This afternoon they face Ayr United, another of those staring into the abyss, before wrapping up their season against St Mirren, who are struggling to haul themselves out of the danger zone. Lennon says the line-up will have a more familiar look but Stevenson insists his manager “can play whoever he wants”.
“There is no ‘weaker’ side. We are lucky to have a really strong squad.”