Why ditched Hibs duo should write a book - just think how many stories they have to tell

The Quiet Men of Easter Road will leave this summer and there’s been plenty of noise during their careers

A couple of incidents in football last week made me think of the two guys bidding farewell to Hibernian. And here’s what I said to myself both times: “Paul Hanlon wouldn’t have done that. And neither would Lewis Stevenson.”

The first of them was Fabio Silva’s gesture to Rangers fans after scoring against Kilmarnock. It was freely translated thus: “How do you like that? You mock me for not enough goals. You mock me for falling into that giant crater on the Hampden pitch when it hadn’t been fenced off and there was no hazard sign. So how the hell do you like that?”

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The second was when a Roma player pretended to suffer a head knock against Bayer Leverkusen, writhed on the turf, frantically summoned the trainer and then after prolonged treatment an ice pack was deemed necessary – when replays cleared showed it was the ball rather than an opponent’s arm which caused the “blow”. Naturally, as soon as he’d removed himself from the action he wanted straight back.

Lewis Stevenson, left, and Paul Hanlon have made more than 1000 appearances for the club combined.Lewis Stevenson, left, and Paul Hanlon have made more than 1000 appearances for the club combined.
Lewis Stevenson, left, and Paul Hanlon have made more than 1000 appearances for the club combined.

In their 1,161 games combined – check that total, fact fans – it has not been Hanlon or Stevenson’s style to feign injury. Alan Stubbs once told me with a smile on his face that David Gray was probably the fondest among his Scottish Cup-winning team of staying down a bit longer, then enjoying the relief-filled applause when he got back to his feet, but I can’t honestly remember this pair pulling such a trick. And getting into a full and frank exchange of views with supporters wasn’t their style either, though lord knows it would have been understandable if they’d ever felt sufficiently provoked, such have been the disappointments in Leith before and since 2016, and the demands of a grumblesome faithful.

No, Hanlon and Stevenson have just got on with the job – the stressful, sometimes unintentionally comedic and now and again downright calamitous job – of trying to defend the Hibees’ honour and goal area. Pat Stanton called his memoir The Quiet Man but that’s a title which suits them both. They’ve been a twofer, invariably mentioned in the same breath, all the more so as the last-surviving heroes from eight years ago, rarely having their individual stories told, which would bother others with an ego, but not them. Others at Easter Road have been the goal idols, the glamour boys, the bad boys, the haircut pioneers, the big noise merchants, the headline-hoggers (front pages and back) but not them, and they’ve liked it that way.

For a book I wrote about the storied triumph, here’s what Hanlon told me about the night before their greatest day as Hibs men, while being mindful of what had been the worst day, against Hearts back in 2012: “I usually room with Lewie and I did this time. He’s my best friend in football and we’re both the same, pretty quiet. We’ve been through a lot with Hibs together: all the horror shows and those finals where the team simply didn’t turn up. But neither of us mentioned 5-1, we just watched a bit of telly, had our supper and went to sleep. If I’d said something before turning out the light about how we had to wake up the next morning and make folk forget all about what Hearts did to us, Lewie would have looked at me strangely and said: ‘Aye, well obviously, mate.’ He’d have wondered if I’d gotten the line from a corny Hollywood movie or something!”

Others who’ve been team-mates down the years have liked a drama, and been the writer-directors of these dramas, but not the Quiet Men, thank God, otherwise following Hibs would have been even more traumatic, involving even more players who have come and gone, leaving hardly any mark at all.

Stevenson played alongside such mavericks as Derek Riordan.Stevenson played alongside such mavericks as Derek Riordan.
Stevenson played alongside such mavericks as Derek Riordan.

What will the duo do next? I really want them to write a book but true to their modest, humble, self-effacing characters, they probably won’t. Just think, though, what a tale it could be, recounting all those drama queens and, crikey, all those managers.

Stevenson, who’s done slightly longer service than Hanlon, made his debut at Ayr United in 2005 under Tony Mowbray. Ahead of him on the left flank, shorn of some of his pace after too much bench-warming at Celtic but with the scowl still functioning fine, was Derek Riordan, back for a second spell. “I had a sore head at the end of the game from all his moaning when I didn’t pass the ball to him quick enough or well enough,” Stevenson told me in 2022 after clocking up appearance number 550. Then, remembering his place in the scheme of things, he added: “But what a player!”

And Hanlon was remembering his place when discussing the enigma that was Anthony Stokes in 2016: “He came in and did what he wanted. He never gave anything away and you never got close to him. But [considering how he electrified the final] I didn’t mind that.”

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The Deek Years, the Stokesy Months. Leigh Griffiths and Garry O’Connor and Jason Cummings. We know about some of their madcap moments but our redoubtable duo could fill us in on a few more. And then there’s the bosses. How many have you had in your working life? For Stevenson, including caretakers, it’s 21. Go on, Lewie, what were they really like?

“I think I’ll be quite upset,” Stevenson told me, anticipating the end. The club, I reckon, will be quite relieved. A dismal campaign would otherwise have concluded with a sheepish, apologetic trudge round the park. Now the fans can give thanks to two magnificent servants. Hanlon and Stevenson save the day, yet again.



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