Hibernian need to find their feet again after a run of results that leaves Rangers on the cusp of wrapping up the Championship but Lewis Stevenson has joked that his wife Julia will need to find herself a new fella as he focuses on what is a jam-packed run of fixtures as the club seek to fulfil their remaining ambitions.
Still battling to finish second in the Championship, the Easter Road club have a number of games in hand and are also determined to prolong their involvement in the Scottish Cup. Days off are likely to be at a premium with two matches a week, as well as pre-match training and post-match recovery sessions.
In April alone they will have to negotiate nine matches in 28 days, leaving little downtime to spend with their families. But, coming off the back of an international break, Stevenson says he would rather have a packed schedule than be out of the running for promotion or missing out on the chance to chart progress to their second domestic cup final of the season.
“I chilled out a bit [during the break], switched off from football and spent time with the family because I’ll hardly see them in April,” he said. “The missus is going to have to find herself a new man! We probably won’t have a day off because of the amount of games we’ve got. The recovery the day after is really important so we’ll be in all the time. We can’t complain though, it’s good to be involved in all these big games. Our season could last another couple of months if all goes to plan.”
It will add up to a substantial effort, mentally and physically, for the likes of Stevenson, who has already amassed 39 appearances this term, on league and cup duty, and could be trudging towards almost 60 by the time the season ends.
“When you’re young you can play a full game on a Saturday and then go again on Sunday for your school or boys club or whatever,” he said. “It gets harder as you get older though. When I was a young player, I never used to feel tired and when we were doing ice baths and stuff like that I’d be thinking ‘why are we doing this? ‘ But now I’m 28, it definitely takes its toll.
“But during a game adrenaline just takes over. I’ll probably feel just the same in the St Mirren game this weekend as I do at the end of this nine-game run we’ve got coming up. As soon as a game starts, it’s just a mindset thing you have to deal with. As soon as the game starts you’re fine.”
The team will have to squeeze four games in before the Scottish Cup semi-final on 16 April so the fact that so many players are on the verge of returning from injury could help ease the strain. Fraser Fyvie, Dylan McGeouch and Paul Hanlon will be able to play their part and the fact that a second place finish in the league will ensure any journey back to the top flight via the play-offs would be two games leaner serves as a valid incentive to get back to winning ways after their slip-ups in recent outings.
With three games in hand over second-placed Falkirk, they have the chance to overhaul the six-point difference and guarantee a little down time in the final days of the season and that could be vital after such a gruelling April.
“I can see why people might suggest there’s not much difference between finishing second or third but we definitely want to finish second,” stressed Stevenson. “We finished second last year and it didn’t work out well for us but you always want to finish as high in the league as possible and, if you want to get promoted, I think playing four games would make a difference compared to six, especially given the run of games we’ve got coming up. We’ve not got the biggest squad and we’ve been hampered a bit by injury so when we get to the play-offs, the fewer games the better.”