International recognition has arrived late on for Lewis Stevenson. The Hibernian full-back’s inclusion in the Scotland squad for next week’s friendlies in Peru and Mexico comes after 12 years as a pro. However, in a pep talk Neil Lennon had with Stevenson recently, the Hibs manager sought to impress on the player that he’s not as far on in his career as might be thought.
“I pulled him in a few weeks ago and told him he’s only 30. I didn’t go to Celtic until I was 29 and people thought I was there for a lifetime,” said Lennon, who played at Parkhead for five-and-a-half years. “So he’s got a lot still in front of him if he looks after himself. He’s defended well this season and he’s very comfortable on the ball for us.
“It’s great that he’ll get a cap. It’s an opportunity for him. These trips can be difficult but it’s important for the Hibs boys who are there to make a mark. It’ll be tough against quality sides, who will be hungry, so it will be an eye opener for a lot of them. But a good one. They’ll see football in a different culture.”
Lennon believes the more cultured environment of the top flight that Hibernian were berthed in last season for the first time in four years has allowed Stevenson to force his way into the plans of Alex McLeish. The absence of Kieran Tierney, Andrew Robertson and Barry Douglas for the end-of-season excursion to the Americas has enhanced the Scotland prospects of the Hibernian stalwart, but Lennon would contend Stevenson has done his bit to earn international favour.
“He’s had a great season and has improved a lot,” said the Irishman. “The Premiership suits him more than the Championship, believe it or not. He’s been really consistent and it’s a great honour for him. It means a lot to him. Lewis is so easy to manage. He’s a model pro, he trains every day and never gets injured. He’s a constant 7 out of 10 every week. He can still improve on things like his delivery. When I first came in he was hitting the first man too often. But it’s got better this season.”
Hibernian have John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Stevenson in Peru. No club has more with a host of senior players either excused or declaring themselves unfit to travel.
“I’m sure that’s a source of frustration for Alex. A lot has been made of this trip, in terms of the timing of it,” said Lennon. “But Alex is building. Scotland aren’t in a massive transitional phase, they’ve got a good nucleus to the squad.
“He’ll want to look at different players but I understand the frustration at players pulling out. I can also understand from some of the players’ point of view, who’ve played non-stop football for a number of years. But if there are some pulling out who haven’t, they might need to take a look at themselves.”