BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hibernian stalwart Lewis Stevenson believes the Easter Road outfit can roar on to bigger and better things now that the “mental and physical” burden of their Scottish Cup hoodoo has been smashed.
The 28-year-old is the Hibees’ longest serving player and tasted gut-wrenching defeats in finals against Hearts and Celtic as the capital club desperately attempted to win the old trophy for the first time since 1902.
Stevenson candidly admits that the infamous drought piled the pressure on the players at the start of every season.
With that monkey of their backs following their 3-2 win over Rangers, he reckons Hibs will thrive in the coming seasons as they seek to return to the Premiership and once again establish themselves at Scottish football’s top table.
He said: “We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs during my time at the club. I think we would have taken every down for the up we got at Hampden on Saturday and then back in Edinburgh on Sunday.
“It really does feel like a massive weight has been removed from our shoulders. Now we can look to the future – and get his club back into the top flight. I hope we can really kick on, now that we’ve freed ourselves from that baggage.
“It always felt like a burden, every year people asking us if this was going to be our year. And every year we put a lot into the Scottish Cup. That does take its toll, physically and mentally.
“I think we can now go next year and just enjoy it, rather than always having so much pressure on us.”
After lifting the trophy on Saturday afternoon, Stevenson is now the most decorated player in the 141-year history of the football club after becoming the only man to win the League Cup and Scottish Cup with the Hibees.
As one of the most modest and unassuming characters in the game, it is unlikely to be something he shouts from the rooftops. Nevertheless it is evidently a source of immense pride for the tireless fullback.
He continued: “Obviously I was aware that the Scottish Cup hadn’t been won for so long, but my own medal collection is something I never really thought about.
“It’s mad. There are players ten times better than me who have played for Hibs without winning this – or winning any trophies, in some cases. To win the League Cup and Scottish Cup is unbelievable for me.
“I’ve been here long enough to compete for cups often enough. Now to actually go and win this one, is unbelievable. But I’ve been very fortunate to play in five cup finals with Hibs.
“To come away with two trophies is something that makes me feel very lucky.”
After 11 years and 319 appearances since making his Hibs debut against Ayr United in September 2005, Stevenson is open to the notion of remaining a one-club man for the rest of his career.
However, in typically self-deprecating fashion, he reckons he will need to fight for his place in the side.
He added: “I would love to do that. But I know that Hibs is a big club and I need to keep performing. You’ve got to keep in the manager’s plans and perform well, keep your form up – or someone will be there to take your place.”