Derek Riordan in glowing Hibs tribute to Lewis Stevenson and Paul Hanlon as Easter Road icon turns back clock

Derek Riordan vividly remembers the night a fresh-faced Lewis Stevenson made his Hibs debut 19 years ago - because typically he scored both goals in a 2-1 cup win at Ayr.

The Hibee hero also recalls his fellow Leith legend confiding in him that he feared his Easter Road days were numbered just a few years later. But hundreds of games and two cup winners’ medals later, Riordan says nobody can ever argue the fans’ favourite hasn't stood the test of time. Riordan was sad to hear his former team mates Stevenson and Paul Hanlon are to end their association with the club this month after an astonishing combined tally of almost 1200 games.

The duo will run out for the final time at the ground that has been home for two decades against Motherwell next Wednesday and Riordan hopes the punters turn out in numbers to give them a fitting reception. He was just a 22-year-old fledgling himself when Stevenson made his debut in a League Cup tie down at Somerset Park in September 2005.

Riordan netted twice in a 2-1 win. But the real story of the night was the emergence of the teenage left back who would go on to make 599 appearances and become the only player in the club’s history to win both the League Cup and Scottish Cup.

Hanlon arrived on the scene three years later and the club captain has amassed 562 appearances for the club since. Riordan, himself a Hibs academy product who went on to score 104 goals in 260 games for the club over two spells, said: “The end has got to come at some point unfortunately. But Lewis and Paul have been brilliant servants for Hibs. They are fantastic laddies.

“I always remember wee Lewis saying ‘I’ve only got a year left’ or ‘this is my last season’. He said that to me about 15 years ago!

“But they are both still there and to have played so many games between them just shows the value so many managers saw in them.

“I remember Lewis’ debut down at Ayr because I was in the bad books with the gaffer for some reason. But he played me and I scored twice.

“Lewis came in as a fresh faced lad that day but never looked out of place. It helped that we were quite a young team under Tony Mowbray. Lewis was a really quiet lad, you never got much out of him!

“But on the pitch was another matter. He always gives his all and that’s why the supporters love him.

“He played behind me a lot of the time and probably did a lot of my doggy work when I wasn’t chasing back. I’d have moaned and moaned at him but he never chirped back. He always gives absolutely everything.

20/09/08 CLYDESDALE BANK PREMIER LEAGUE HAMILTON v HIBS (0-1) NEW DOUGLAS PARK - EDINBURGH Derek Riordan (2nd left) celebrates after putting Hibs ahead
20/09/08 CLYDESDALE BANK PREMIER LEAGUE HAMILTON v HIBS (0-1) NEW DOUGLAS PARK - EDINBURGH Derek Riordan (2nd left) celebrates after putting Hibs ahead

“As a youngster at Hibs you had to try and grab your chance and Lewis absolutely did that as did big Paul a few years later. Paul was another quiet character but has gone on to captain the club and just like Lewis has had a brilliant career.

“Winning that Scottish Cup in 2016 was such a special moment for both of them, they’ll tell you that. You just wonder if we’ll ever see their likes coming through the system again.”

Hibs have urged supporters to stay back and join in a special tribute to the duo after next Wednesday’s final home game of the season against Well.

And Riordan added: “Hopefully the fans turn out to give them a good send-off. Obviously with results going the way they have then you never know plus midweek games are never quite as busy.

“Listen they’ve had their testimonials, they’ve had brilliant times in Hibs shirts none more so than the Scottish Cup win in 2016 so they will take away some fantastic memories. But I hope they get a nice reception and a good win. They deserve that.”