For much of Lewis Stevenson’s career he must have felt like a pupil from the ultimate school of hard knocks.
But the defender is convinced Hibs now have the camaraderie to ensure they finish top of the class in the Championship this season.
Stevenson is Hibs’ longest-serving player and, after enjoying the good times of their CIS Cup triumph in 2007, has had to endure plenty of spells better forgotten.
However, following the low blow of relegation from the Premiership in the most horrible of circumstances last year, the 27-year-old has stuck around in the hope of proving the current crop have learned the lessons of a troubled past.
The former Scotland Under-21 cap insists the feeling of returning from their recent extended, week-long lay-off told him there is a special togetherness in Alan Stubbs’ group.
Speaking ahead of today’s meeting with Morton, Stevenson, pictured, said: “The break’s been a chance to rest the legs and for a few of the boys with niggles it was a chance to get healthy again.
“It was a full week off. Sometimes it’s nice just to get away from each other for a bit, but it’s a good bunch of boys and we were buzzing to be back.
“It was almost like the first day back at school when we came back. It was good to see everyone again.
“It’s a good group and it was nice to see each other again, even though people keep in touch over social media. It was like we’ve never been away.
“It’s a good place to be. There were times in the past when you were dreading coming in to training.
“But everyone looks forward to coming in, there’s a good atmosphere about the place, and long may that continue.
“There’s no cliques, everyone gets on, and I think that’s coming across on the pitch. Everyone sticks together and there’s no individuals.” “Guys like David Gray, Liam Fontaine and Paul Hanlon are in charge of the committee and they are good at keeping us all together - but the camaraderie takes care of itself.”
The Hibs squad used the break from training to fit in their Christmas party but are hopeful the festive period could bring further cause for celebration.
Currently protecting a run of 14 wins and a draw from their last 15 matches, Stevenson is sticking strictly to the old adage of focusing solely on the next match.
However, looming on the horizon is a trip to Ibrox on December 28 that could prove pivotal in the race for the Championship this term.
Stevenson added: “We just have to focus on ourselves. The game you think you’re going to win can be the banana skin and the one where you drop points.
“We have to go into every game with a clear head and try and get the three points.
“Is everyone thinking about December 28? Everyone else can think about that game but we’re not. It’s these games that are the biggest games of the season. The Rangers games take care of themselves.
“Three points are three points at the end of the day; it doesn’t matter who it’s up against.”
Meanwhile, Stevenson admits he is being kept on his toes at left-back following the return to fitness of former Hearts and Manchester United defender Adam Eckersley, who joined Hibs on a short-term deal in September.
He commented: “There’s competition for places all over the place.
“I know Adam’s a top player and he was brilliant at Hearts last season. If I make a mistake or don’t perform he’s ready to take my place.
“The more competition, the more I think it brings out the best in people.”